NMD Council urges cancer strategy budget from Stormont

Newry Mourne and Down District Council's offices in Newry.Newry Mourne and Down District Council's offices in Newry.
Newry Mourne and Down District Council's offices in Newry.
A local authority area is to urge the new Finance Minister to strike a multi-year budget to fully deliver a long awaited cancer strategy.

The Department of Health (DoH) published its ‘Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland 2022-32’ in March 2022, though the collapse of the Assembly has limited much of its potential.

Over £11m was made to the strategy annually during this time, however an estimate of £145m per year for the cancer strategy has been identified in Stormont chambers with the recent reforming of the Executive.

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Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) agreed to lobby both the finance and health minister this week over “unacceptable cancer waiting times” as the district experiences a crisis of over 17,000 women in the Southern Trust requiring cervical smear test reviews.

Cllr David Taylor (UUP).Cllr David Taylor (UUP).
Cllr David Taylor (UUP).

Downpatrick Sinn Fein rep, Oonagh Hanlon brought the motion forward, which further seeks a new all Ireland approach for cancer services.

Cllr Hanlon said: “The situation for cancer sufferers is urgent and needs attention now.

“Behind every statistic there are hundreds of people waiting anxiously for treatment and health care staff are stretched beyond their limits and this is unsustainable.

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“We must utilise all the tools available in the fight against cancer, and this includes greater North/ South co-operation.

Cllr Terry Andrews (SDLP).Cllr Terry Andrews (SDLP).
Cllr Terry Andrews (SDLP).

“An all Ireland approach would not only improve cancer services for patients, but would also help to make health care across the island more sustainable.

“Improved co-operation would also improve research and we can develop new and effective treatments for patients fighting cancer .

“I would urge the Health Minister (Robin Swann-UUP) working alongside the other parties to ensure the new cancer strategy includes North/South cancer care. Co-operation is the key pillar.”

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An amendment was made to the motion by Rowallane SDLP councillor, Terry Andrews.He said: “We should also write to the Minister of Finance (Caoimhe Archibald - Sinn Fein) urging her to commit to the department’s identified funding plan for the said strategy and deliver a multi year budget.

Cllr Oonagh Hanlon (SF).Cllr Oonagh Hanlon (SF).
Cllr Oonagh Hanlon (SF).

“I feel strongly if we are to deliver better health outcomes for the public and successfully implement the cancer strategy, then the associated funding must go with it.

“Without this funding the strategy will just be another document that promises much, but delivers very little.”

Insight in to Minister Swann’s “commitment” on the cancer strategy was given by his UUP colleague, Slieve Gullion councillor, David Taylor.

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He said: “We all have a desire to see a significant improvement in cancer services across Northern Ireland.

“Certainly, I know this is a key commitment for the minister, which was shown by his publication of the Cancer Strategy in 2022, an ambitious and costed programme.

“That plan was endorsed by all the parties in the Assembly at the time.

“I do know that he wants to see this addressed and I do believe that everyone has a role to play within the Executive to try and achieve that including the Finance Minister as nothing can be achieved fully unless there is a budget in place.

“I hope that we see a budget agreed within the next couple of weeks.”