A local MLA has said the cancellation of hundreds of chemotherapy appointments falling on bank holidays is a serious concern and has caused undue stress to cancer patients.
SDLP health spokesperson Mark Durkan questioned why appointments in Belfast are scheduled on bank holidays if they cannot be fulfilled.
He said: “The cancellation of any clinical appointment can cause significant undue stress for patients. When it’s a chemotherapy session, however, the anxiety caused to those awaiting treatment is clearly more acute.”
Mr Durkan said it is crucial to learn from patients.
“The testimony from patients who have had their appointments cancelled on bank holidays is hard to hear but it’s crucial that we listen and learn from their experience.”
A spokesperson for the Western Trust meanwhile confirmed that locally the radiotherapy centre is not routinely open on bank holidays.
The spokesperson said: “The Radiotherapy Department is not routinely open on Bank Holidays except for emergency treatments so routine patient appointments are not scheduled for those days.”
They explained that a routine radiotherapy schedule would be five sessions per week for the patient. A missed treatment is then accounted for in the patient’s overall treatment schedule.
The Trust confirmed that arrangements are made for certain groups of patients who require the five sessions in one week.
“For certain groups of patients it is, however, still important that they receive five fractions per week. For these patients, they will receive their radiotherapy on the Saturday after the bank holiday to ensure they have received five fractions per week.”