Unanimous backing for better cancer drugs and care call

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly �/Lorcan Doherty Photography - 2nd June 2014
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly �/Lorcan Doherty Photography - 2nd June 2014

Derry & Strabane Council have backed calls for the Health Minister to improve the drugs available to cancer patients.

The Council has also called for ‘high quality, person centred’ care for all those facing a diagnosis.

A motion to this effect was tabled by SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly at the monthly Full Council meeting.

Councillor Reilly called no his colleagues to support the recommendations in the ‘Where next for cancer services in Northern Ireland?’ report published by Cancer Research UK, and to note Macmillan NI’s call for the NI Assembly to “implement the reviewed Cancer Services Framework and deliver high quality, person-centred care to everyone facing a cancer diagnosis.”

Speaking to his motion, Mr Reilly said it was evident that there was “a clear and compelling need to improve the services available to cancer patients”.

He said: “People here have every right to expect that their loved ones facing a cancer diagnosis will have the best treatment available through their health service, and I hope that the Health Minister responds positively to this push from those directly involved with dealing with cancer patients.

“The Cancer Research paper published earlier this month highlights how in 2014 over 8,900 people were diagnosed with cancer in NI and that this has risen from around 7,200 in 2004. This upward trajectory is expected to continue in the coming years.

“By 2035, it is projected there will be over 14,000 cancer diagnoses each year – an increase of 65% among men and 63% among women.

“We all are living longer and this is a factor in the increase of such cases, but here in our Council district where we have high levels of deprivation, it is all the more relevant for us as there are higher rates of cases from those living in poorer areas.”

Colr. Reilly welcomed the fact that one-year cancer survival has now reached 70% and five-year survival has reached 54%.

“Yet however, these survival rates lag behind other European countries and varies significantly by cancer type,” he said. “Over 80% of females diagnosed with breast cancer and males diagnosed with testicular cancer between 2005-2009 survived their disease for at least five years. In contrast, fewer than 6% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survived their disease for at least five years.”

Speaking at the meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy asked for the motion to be amended to include that the Minister ensures the “safety and effectiveness” of new drugs, and through ongoing reform improve the services available.

Colr. Duffy said the Department of Health had made strides and put in motion processes to help improve access to specialist drugs.

“The Minister’s position is that patient welfare is paramount,” she said.