Here is my speech to the Northern Irish Legislative Assembly on 25th January 2021 on the subject of The Health Protection Regulations. As a bit of context, it has been revealed last week that some 275 people had their red flag Cancer surgeries cancelled in Northern Ireland, due to COVID pressures.
This is the reality. Patients awaiting time-dependent critical surgery are facing cancellations and prolonged delays. The disruptions to Cancer treatment must be addressed with a clear plan of action and a full, regional response.
"Mr Deputy Speaker, Cancer cancellations is the greatest COVID sin of all, and it should never rest easy with any member that we have been forced down a path whereby those that require urgent and immediate surgery have either a fear to go to their A&E to present, and they're not seeing their GPs due to lack of face-to-face consultations. There's a real palpable anger and you only have to listen to the radio programmes and TV shows across this country to realise that those with Cancer are suffering. There's not a family representative in this House which has not been impacted by Cancer, all the more alarming when we're dealing with it in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic. I raise that the Health Committee, last week, Mr Deputy Speaker, the plight of two individuals, that because of no face-to-face consultations and that GPs have rang through they were told that their symptoms would be prescribed by pain killers, two or three times this happened. When the pain continued, they presented at A&E, Cancer was diagnosed at advanced stages and were dead within four days. It was a tragic story, and I ask this question of the Heath Trust personnel we had before us and they talked about late diagnosis; the evidence from the Health Trust was damning when it came to Cancer. Number of Cancers detected, down. Number of red flags coming forward, down. Late presentations at A&E, on the up. A pause in paediatric services. These are the results of restrictions, it's easy for any Member to get up and say, 'we should restrict and place elements of society on hold with restrictive measures' but we must also reflect that it does indeed have impact on other services."
I sit on the Northern Irish Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on the COVID-19 Response and the Committee for Health, I believe we need to set out a clear plan and road map on a regional basis on how we restore Cancer treatments and screenings to prevent tragedies like I mentioned from ever happening again.