The chief nursing officer for Northern Ireland is to head up a group charged with developing a new strategy intended to help the country meet its “cancer increase challenge”.
The projected rise in cancer cases represents one of the biggest challenges facing the health service in Northern Ireland, Professor Charlotte McArdle warned ahead of a meeting on 10 May.
“It is imperative that we act now to meet the challenge”
Professor McArdle has been appointed chair of a Northern Irish Department of Health steering group tasked with developing a new 10-year cancer strategy for the country.
The CNO was commenting ahead of a meeting at Stormont last Friday to discuss the way forward on the strategy.
The meeting was attended by patients and cancer survivors, as well as charities, healthcare professionals and senior health and social care managers.
Professor McArdle warned that projections for the future rise of cancer cases “make stark reading”.
In the period 2009-13, there were 4,347 male and 4,175 female cases of cancer diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland, she noted.
“It is very clear we will need to identify new ways of working”
By 2026, this was expected to rise by 43% for men and by 40% for women to approximately 6,200 and 6,000 cases per year, respectively, she said.
The CNO highlighted that the anticipated growth in the incidence of cancer was directly attributable to the fact that people are living longer.
“It is imperative that we act now to meet the challenge,” she said. “A fully comprehensive new strategy for the period 2020 to 2030 will help us direct our skilled workforce and resources most effectively.”
She added: “It is very clear we will need to identify new ways of working. The development of a new strategy is very much part of the transformation agenda for health and social care.”
Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly announced in March this year that a new cancer strategy was to be commissioned.
At the time, he said the “central goal” of the new strategy would be to identify new ways of working to secure further advances across cancer care, and that his department would work with patients, staff and cancer charities on its development.
He also noted that the department had looked at the “various arrangements” that supported the development of cancer strategies in neighbouring jurisdictions, and saw “merit in the model that was used by NHS England”.
This model, he highlighted, had involved the establishment of an independent cancer taskforce, which worked closely with professional cancer services staff, patients, cancer charities, commissioners, care providers and other key stakeholder groups.
“This is a genuine partnership approach which seeks to bring people together to find shared solutions”
Announcing Professor McArdle’s new role in leading the steering group, Mr Pengelly said: “The department’s appointment of the chief nursing officer as chair of the steering group underlines the priority we are attaching to this work.”
He stated that last Friday’s meeting represented a “first step” in engaging with a wide range of people on the new strategy.
“This is a genuine partnership approach which seeks to bring people together to find shared solutions and the best outcomes for patients and their families,” he said.
“We have made great strides in tackling cancer over the last decade and I wish to see that progress continue,” he noted.
“There is much more we need to do and a new strategy will help us to do that,” he said. “It is intended that the strategy will be completed by June 2020.”
However, the departent stated that any “decisions on the implementation of a new strategy would be for a future health minister” within Northern Ireland’s devolved government, which currently has no functioning executive or assembly.