NI cancer patients must have access to vital drugs - MLA

Mark H Durkan
Mark H Durkan

A Derry SDLP MLA has slammed “discrimination” against cancer patients in Northern Ireland.

Mark H Durkan said that the Health Minister Edwin Poots must take immediate action to end the “discrimination and start saving lives”.

Mr Durkan said: “It is utterly shameful that cancer patients in Northern Ireland continue to be discriminated against in the supply of life- saving drugs.

“Patients and their families rightly expect the highest level of care when they fall ill and yet there are 38 approved cancer drugs which are available and being used to save lives in England which are not available to patients in the North.

“The inequity that exists between cancer patients in Northern Ireland and those in England must be addressed if we are to tackle the rising rates of a number of cancers.

“We must urgently remove the barriers to crucial and life-saving treatments and ensure that vital drugs are readily accessible to people living in this region.”

According to the Foyle MLA, an urgent action plan is needed to improve cancer patients’ access to the medicines their clinicians think they need.

“Clinicians must be empowered to request access to the latest cancer medicines available and which they think will be effective.

“Cancer survival is dependent on a number of factors; early detection, patient profile, condition type etc. Postcode should not be one of those factors.

“A life in NI is not worth less than a life in England and the Minister must take urgent action to address these inequalities.

“Unfortunately the Minister seemed preoccupied with the completely unrelated issue of prescription charges and political point-scoring rather than outlining any action plan which would undoubtedly save lives across our region after being questioned on the issue. The SDLP will continue to press him to ensure that patients and their families get the best deal,” Mr Durkan said.