We’re committed to improving treatment, care and services for people living with breast cancer in Northern Ireland.
Focusing on Northern Ireland
As part of this commitment, Breast Cancer Now submitted a response to the Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland 2021-2031 consultation from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, as well as being involved in a number of key groups helping to develop the strategy.
Cancer remains the largest cause of death in Northern Ireland. 1,443 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Northern Ireland and 314 women die from breast cancer each year in Northern Ireland. We hope the strategy addresses these numbers and enables breast cancer patients to have timely referrals, diagnosis and treatment, with people put at the heart of cancer services.
Funding for the future workforce
In our submission, we raised our concerns that there was insufficient funding to deliver the strategy’s recommendations and ensure breast cancer outcomes improve in Northern Ireland.
We are particularly concerned that, without funding, the strategy will not be able to deliver its recommendations to develop and deliver a workforce plan or ensure that all cancer patients have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist throughout their care pathway – which are both vital to delivering cancer services now and for the future.
Making secondary breast cancer count
We recommended that Northern Ireland commits to participating in or delivering a secondary breast cancer audit, which NHS England and the Welsh Government have already committed to following a decade-long campaign by Breast Cancer Now.
While the strategy acknowledges that reducing health inequalities should be a key focus, there were no recommendations for how to address this challenge in cancer care. We suggested that, as part of the strategy’s commitment to increase numbers participating in screening, it should encourage the use of interventions that increase uptake by those who are less likely to come for screening, such as those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged or BAME communities.
Working with people affected by breast cancer
We welcomed the way in which the strategy was produced: in partnership with people affected by breast cancer, as well as the healthcare professionals.
Thank you to those who participated in the strategy’s development or responded to the consultation. At Breast Cancer Now, we hope this approach by the Department of Health will continue in the redrafting, planning and implementation stages of the strategy. We will continue to update as the strategy progresses.
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