Foyle MP Mark Durkan has raised the plight of cancer sufferers in Derry during a Westminster debate on ‘cancer patient experience’.
He was speaking during a debate which highlighted that some two million people across the North and in Britain are living with or beyond cancer - a figure that is expected to rise to four million by 2030.
He said: “In Derry, there has been a major campaign for a localised radiotherapy unit. It was meant to happen as part of the overall improved cancer strategy in Northern Ireland, but for various reasons it got held up. The campaign was led by the Pink Ladies, a group who have gone through the cancer journey. They have all experienced breast cancer, but they are in no way exclusive about their cancer as opposed to other types of cancer experience.
“I recently attended a Pink Ladies event, which focused on the new partnerships in which the group was involved. It has spread its involvement to include not just Macmillan Cancer Support and Action Cancer but local community partnerships. It discussed providing new services at a neighbourhood level, including counselling services, listening-ear services and complementary therapy services. All are supported by professionals in the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
“The issue is about making the services more accessible, comfortable and compatible with local users, who will rely very much on those who have been through, and are going through, the cancer experience, because such people are best placed to give support to others who are new to the journey.”
The former SDLP leader added that medical staff in Derry and throughout Northern Ireland were helping to “work miracles every day” with people suffering from cancer.
“But they are very conscious and very clear that their task is still to keep narrowing the gap between what the services ought to be and what they actually are, which is why we constantly need to drive on performance and outcomes in these areas.”
He added: “We need to gain patients’ insight and emancipate their understanding as part of lighting the way forward for ourselves.”