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Upper Bann DUP MP Carla Lockhart has been contacted by a constituent whose red flag cancer operation was postponed at short notice.

Ms Lockhart has called on Health Minister Robin Swann to set out his strategy for addressing the cancellation of urgent cancer operations and tackle the diagnosis and wider cancer care crisis engulfing Northern Ireland.

Carla Lockhart said:

“Cancer is a killer. Without intervention it kills, and without timely intervention the prognosis for those with cancer worsens as each day goes by. In that regard, it is no different to COVID-19. Both take life too soon and both leave families devastated by grief and loss.

There is widespread concern that 106 surgeries or scopes have been cancelled. Each procedure represents a patient and family plunged into added distress and uncertainty. Saying sorry whilst postponing operations is not good enough.

In July I wrote to the Health Minister asking how he was planning to address the need to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care. In his response he said the following:

“the resumption of screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients in clinically safe environments is being given the utmost priority and proceeding as quickly as possible, taking into account the potential to have to respond to a further surge and existing capacity constraints.”

It is clear, with operations being postponed, there has been a failure to adequately plan for the continuation of cancer care while that further surge has occurred.

The Department of Health has had summer months to plan for the second wave that the Health Minister rightly said would come. That we are cancelling urgent operations and scopes is a damning indictment on this planning.

We need the Department of Health, the Minister and the Health Trusts to set out their plan to meet the need of those with conditions that kill. Whether it is cancer, COVID-19 or heart disease, the intervention needed should be there.

We must now hear how this will happen, so that when we have future spikes we do not have more patients be told the treatment they need is not possible. No option should be of the table. If help is needed the clear precise asks should be given to the NI Executive and Her Majesty’s Government.”