Prof. Johnston warns against cancer cuts

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A leading cancer specialist from Derry, Professor Patrick Johnston, says he has real concerns about the impact a cut in the health budget would have on cancer services here.

The Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University has, over the last two decades, transformed how cancer patients here are treated, spearheading the innovative Comprehensive Cancer Care and Research Programme.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’, he said: “We came from a very low base to now leading the way in terms of cancer survival figures in the UK and also putting quality care systems in place for patients.

“We have a very well structured clinical service but it needs continued investment.

“I don’t know the specifics of the budget but the fact is we have to invest in the health of our population and that includes investing in cancer services.

“Any diminution of these services is something I will be passionately speaking out about.”

The former St. Columb’s College student is considered a world leader in cancer research and was instrumental in setting up the Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology (CCRCB) in Belfast.

He took up his current position as President of Queen’s in March, a job which he admits will impact on his cancer research commitments.

“I haven’t the time day to day to deal with patients to the same degree that I would like - but I have a very large research group.

“When I started, I had five or six people. Today, there are hundreds working in the CCRCB. The centre is leading the way in terms of precision medicine in cancer. It doesn’t get much better than that but that’s not to say that there isn’t more that could be done.”