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Cancer Focus NI responds to NI Public Expenditure Budget 2024-2025

Richard Spratt, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, responds to the Northern Ireland Budget announced last week:

Richard Spratt, CEO Cancer Focus NI

Richard Spratt, Chief Executive Officer at Cancer Focus Northern Ireland

“We welcome the announcement of a budget for Northern Ireland and especially the £7.76B awarded for the Department of Health, with £34M dedicated to waiting lists. We understand the difficulty in carving up a budget, but we believe that health and access to care should always be a priority, and we are pleased to see this reflected. The agreement of a budget at the very least removes uncertainty and enables decision-making; we hope that this will provide the clarity and means to support planning and services in health for the year, without further delay.

The challenges and constraints facing health are real. We share Minister Swann’s concern that this budget is not enough to address the dire conditions our health service finds itself in. We are particularly alarmed by any risk of service retraction or risk that patients in NI might not be able to access new drugs and therapies, especially ones that may be available elsewhere in the UK, due to budget restrictions.

We need to do more than stand still: we need to advance our service to provide the most efficient and effective care possible, that is capable of meeting the demand of our aging population. When we continue to ‘play catch-up’ and ‘fight fires,’ we hinder our ability to plan for the future, which hurts both our patients and our service. In most cases, when we catch cancers earlier and care for our patients as best we can, we improve outcomes while also using our health resources more efficiently. However, to do this, we require investment – in our workforce, in process reviews, in technology, and more. We are concerned that this budget may not meet the growing needs of our health service and that – since it is only a one-year budget – it may limit long-term planning. We would like to see a multi-year health budget that would allow us to address today’s challenges while preparing for tomorrow’s, to stabilise our service as we put measures in place for sustainability.

Within the 2024-2025 budget, it is vital that the implementation of the Cancer Strategy and action toward wait times are prioritised. This includes resourcing of cancer prevention: if we do not prevent cancers and do what we can to reduce cancer incidence in our communities, strain on our cancer services will only get worse. The Cancer Strategy has waited too long, and time is a luxury no cancer patient can afford. 1 in 2 of us will face a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime, and we deserve to trust that we will have timely access to care. We need to start to build toward a better future; our Cancer Strategy offers a path forward, and we press on the Minister to implement the ambition that is already there.

With the budget, we are also reminded of the crucial role of the third sector in health services, especially in health improvement in and patient support. We are glad this is recognised by the NI Cancer Strategy and proud to support local people on their cancer journey. To learn more about our services and get involved, visit”

The announced budget covers the 2024-2025 Financial Year and is pending approval from the Northern Ireland Assembly. It can be found here.