Cancer Strategy 2020

In 2019 co-production work began on the development of a 10 year Northern Ireland Cancer Strategy, with policy makers, health representatives, experienced health professionals at all levels, charities and lived experience cancer patients actively working in its development. Co-production is a highly person centred approach involving a diverse group of people which enables service providers to give better quality, more targeted health and social care provision that delivers more of what people say they want, how and where they want it the strategy will focus on fewer people getting preventable cancers; more people surviving for longer after a diagnosis; and improving the experience of care for cancer patients.

The project is led by a Steering Group chaired by Charlotte McArdle the Chief Nursing Officer, which has been meeting since June 2019. The Steering Group is supported by seven sub-groups: prevention; diagnosis; treatment; care and support; living well; palliative / end of life and children and young people. All sub-groups consider issues affecting patients across the full age range with particular focus on older people and accessibility as well as children and young people (16 to 24).

Through “Make change together” the PCC recruited and supported 41 service users with experience to input into this work.

Pre COVID-19 the development of the cancer strategy was progressing to the agreed timetable, taking full account of the principles of coproduction with effective stakeholder engagement. The development of the new cancer strategy had to identify and allow for changes made in response to COVID-19 across the totality of the cancer journey.

In addition, during the pandemic surge vulnerable cancer patients were required to shield, however, regular liaison was maintained between the Department and their sub groups and the co-chair of the steering group; himself a lived experience person.

At the cancer strategy steering group meeting held on 9th June 2020, a range of actions were agreed to reset work on the strategy development; being mindful of the safety and availability of the wide range of stakeholders It was agreed that it was important to continue developing the cancer strategy adopting a coproduction approach.
The sub-group meetings have resumed through virtually and have produced the papers below:

Where we are – an analysis of the current service organisation and configuration, demand/capacity and other key service issues.

Where we would like to be – vision of what an optimised service would look like, including taking account of regional approach, professional role expansion etc. Including an aspirational statement of
what could be achieved.

How do we get there – how each of the sub groups recommend, see and implement the changes in service provision for cancer patients in Northern Ireland.

Sub group chairs prepared specific draft recommendations for input into the strategy. These draft recommendations have been the focus of review, in advance of the strategy formally being consulted on, to which the service users by experience have played a valued part. The public consultation is planned for summer 2021.

Health Minister Robin Swann has invited the public to have their say on a new 10-year Cancer Strategy for Northern Ireland. The draft strategy for 2021-2031 aims to place Northern Ireland at the forefront of world class cancer prevention, treatment and patient experience.

The draft strategy consists of 67 recommendations drawn from the best available evidence and reflecting the voices of people who use and work in cancer services. The recommendations are across four key themes:
• Reduce the growth in the number of people diagnosed with preventable cancers
• Diagnosis and treatment – to improve survival
• Patient experience – to improve the experience of people diagnosed with cancer
• Implementing the Strategy

A cancer recovery plan ‘Building Back; Rebuilding better’ was published by the Department in June to deal with the current backlogs and immediate pressures:

The consultation will close on 20 October 2021 and the EQIA will close on 17 November 2021. Further details can be found at

Should you have any queries, please contact Sorcha Forbes, PCC Involvement Officer by emailing