Assembly Written Question 9676/17-22
Question: To ask the Minister of Health, in relation to the ongoing pressures of a COVID-19 second wave, for his assessment of the current status of cancer services in Northern Ireland.
Answer: COVID-19 presents ongoing capacity challenges across the cancer pathway which the service is actively managing. As during the first surge, all possible steps will be taken to maintain cancer services in the event of a second surge. My Department has developed a COVID-19 Surge Planning Strategic Framework, which provides the overall structure and parameters within which HSC Trusts have developed plans for managing the response to COVID-19 in the event of further waves. This framework and plans can be viewed on the Department website https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/winter-surge-plan.
I have established a Cancer Services Rebuilding Cell to set out the approach to implementing the reset of cancer services (assessment and treatments), taking into account the potential need for the HSC to respond to further COVID-19 surge(s) in 2020 and the existing capacity constraints in HSC.
In addition, the HSC has commissioned additional assessments and treatments from independent sector providers. This capacity is being prioritised for those patients with suspected or confirmed cancer.
One of my primary aims in the difficult weeks ahead will be to ensure the continued delivery of high quality cancer services, providing of course that it is safe to do so.