Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Assembly

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If you’re an interested in hearing more about our work in Northern Ireland, please contact us.

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In Northern Ireland over 9,520 people are diagnosed with cancer each year – more than 26 people every day. Cancer survival is improving, with 56% of patients surviving for five years or more, however survival in Northern Ireland still lags behind other comparable countries around the world.

Each year Cancer Research UK spend over £2 million in Northern Ireland on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research. More progress is necessary as one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.

Health is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland. This means decisions about health policy are made by the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly. That is why we work closely alongside the Executive, Assembly, Department of Health, Health and Social Care (HSC) Board, Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Trusts to ensure cancer remains a priority in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland Cancer Research UK has:

  • 2018: Significant participation in Oncology Service Transformation Project, focusing on workforce adjustments to achieve a clinically led but medically delivered service, compared to current primarily clinically delivered service.

  • 2019: Successfully campaigned and lobbied for Northern Ireland to commission the production of a new cancer strategy, gaining support from all Northern Ireland’s political parties, the public and policy and health managers. We are now active in the development of a new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland.

  • 2019: Influenced decision by the Public Health Agency to change the test for bowel cancer screening programme to FIT from 2020.

The World Health Organisation recommends that every country should have a cancer strategy regardless of resource constraints.

The current context offers a timely opportunity to begin work towards a new cancer strategy. The development of a cancer strategy is supported by all parties represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly, reflecting consensus across the political spectrum.

Given the significant challenges facing cancer services in Northern Ireland, Cancer Research UK strongly supports the decision by the Northern Ireland Department of Health to develop a cancer strategy. CRUK is working with the Department of Health on the development, adoption and implementation of a comprehensive cancer strategy that sets out the steps that will be taken to close the survival gap in Northern Ireland and save more lives.

Northern Ireland’s strategy must have clear, measurable targets for the next five years at a minimum and be accompanied by appropriate leadership and sufficient and sustainable funding to achieve much-needed transformational change in the delivery of cancer services.

Cancer Research UK has set out clear commitments we believe should be prioritised in a new cancer strategy to unlock the benefits of the greatest opportunities to transform cancer services and accelerate progress in improving cancer outcomes.

Diagnosing cancer early is critical to achieving Cancer Research UK’s aim to see 3 in 4 patients survive cancer for 10 years of more by 2034. When diagnosed at the earlier stages (I and II), a patient’s chance of surviving 10 years or more is 81% for the 8 most common cancer types. This falls to 26% when diagnosed at a later stage (III and IV). cancer involves a dedicated array of specialist staff working in Health and Social Care (HSC) Northern Ireland, who carry out and interpret investigative tests.

There are several new early diagnosis initiatives underway in other UK nations. If implemented in Northern Ireland, these could ensure more patients are diagnosed at an earlier stage. However, Northern Ireland will only be able to realise the benefits of initiatives like these if it has adequate numbers of diagnostic staff to cope with more patients coming through the service. Already, diagnostic staff in Northern Ireland are struggling to keep up with increasing workload pressures.

Even without new early diagnosis initiatives, demand for cancer tests and treatments is rising in Northern Ireland. By 2030, 12,340 patients will be diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland every year, up from 9,256 in 2016. This is driven by an ageing and growing population, which also drives further demand for diagnostic services.

The Department of Health (DoH) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), with help from clinical networks and Trusts, can help to accelerate progress in survival for Northern Ireland by taking decisive action to urgently address current shortages in diagnostic staff in the short-term; and develop a cancer workforce plan, prioritising the diagnostic workforce.

CRUK policy position paper: the diagnostic workforce in Northern Ireland (March 2020)

The research environment in Northern Ireland is experiencing financial and policy challenges. Basic researchers are struggling to compete for funding from the UK and EU sources. Additionally, workforce shortages and infrastructure issues in Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts are impacting on the clinical research opportunities available to patients. Despite this, there are examples where, through supporting areas of research strength, researchers are successfully attracting major funding. It is crucial that those involved in research continue to refine this focus, drawing on potential collaborations between universities, the HSC and Northern Ireland’s life science industry, to create world leading areas of excellence.

Cancer Research UK recommends:

  • The Department for the Economy (DfE) should prioritise publishing a draft of the life sciences strategy
  • A comprehensive cancer strategy is crucial. Development is underway, but implementation will be critical. It is crucial that northern Ireland’s universities, industry, the HSC and the third sector work collaboratively to create a competitive and successful research environment

Bench to Bedside: Enhancing the Competitiveness of Medical Research in Northern Ireland (April 2019) – Executive Summary

Bench to Bedside: Enhancing the Competitiveness of Medical Research in Northern Ireland (April 2019) – Full Report

Campaign For Change Right Now

Campaigns Ambassadors play a critical role in our mission to beat cancer sooner. They save lives by persuading politicians to support cancer research, prevention, early diagnosis and access to treatments.

You can be part of a determined group that have made significant changes to the nation’s health.

Our successes have included:

  • Securing the introduction of plain tobacco packing
  • Bringing in laws to protect young people from sunbeds.
  • Ending smoking in enclosed work and public places.

This is a flexible, home-based volunteering role, which can fit around your current commitments.

Become an Ambassador today

Share Your Story

Media volunteers are at the heart of helping Cancer Research UK raise awareness of our work in Northern Ireland. By sharing personal experiences, our volunteers also inspire others to support us.

If you have a cancer experience and would feel comfortable with details appearing in a newspaper, online, radio, TV, magazines or on social media then we’d be grateful if you could complete our Share Your Story form

Everyone’s story is important. By becoming a media volunteer, you can:

  • help highlight the experiences of real people affected by cancer.
  • raise awareness of symptoms and help with cancer prevention.
  • give inspiration and hope to other people affected by cancer.
  • inspire others to fundraise for Cancer Research UK.

Once you have filled out the form, your details will be stored on a secure database. We won’t share any of your details without your permission and a member of experienced staff will contact you directly if a suitable media opportunity arises.

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