Disappointment after cancer waiting times released

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has responded to the Department of Health’s recent quarterly cancer waiting times (July – Sept 2021).

Richard Spratt, CEO of Cancer Focus NI has said, “The latest waiting time figures released today continue to cause us serious concern. We are extremely disappointed to see that, yet again, large numbers of local cancer patients have not been seen within the Department’s own target dates. This has been a consistent failure ever since these targets were set.

“These statistics are not just numbers; they represent real people. When patients are waiting so long for a diagnostic test or treatment, the impact on them is devastating on top of all the other stresses associated with Covid-19.  We see and hear this daily in our work supporting local patients and their families throughout their cancer journey, and our hearts go out to them.

“Even pre-Covid, cancer incidence and mortality were increasing, with these trends exacerbated by an ageing population and health inequalities.  We fear that waiting times will continue to increase for many local people, especially as we’re expecting a large cohort of people with a late diagnosis as a result of the pandemic.”

Cancer Focus NI has campaigned for 10 years for a new Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland to improve prevention, early diagnosis, waiting times, treatment and survival. The long-awaited draft of a new Cancer Strategy was published in June and completed its public consultation in October.

Richard Spratt continued: “There is an urgent need for the publication and sustained resourcing of the new Cancer Strategy, but in the present and immediate future, we need to see improvements under the Cancer Recovery Plan. In addition, significant capacity and workforce challenges must be addressed now. We’ve presented these concerns to our political leaders for years via our establishment and facilitation of the All Party Group on Cancer at Stormont. Local people cannot and should not wait anymore.”

Cancer Focus NI has continued to support patients throughout the pandemic via online therapeutic cancer support, and more recently where appropriate, via face-to-face support. If you have any concerns about your health, speak to your GP as soon as possible. Visit for more information on common signs and symptoms of cancer. For information on the charity’s support services visit

 For more information please contact Fionnuala Pimley on / 07977 332358, Louise Carey on / 07884 362749 or our switchboard on 028 9066 3281.