People across the Banbridge district have been expressing a sense of injustice that patients in Northern Ireland don’t have the same access to 38 life-extending cancer drugs as patients in England.
Residents have joined the Equal Access campaign organised by Cancer Focus NI, and last week its chief executive, Roisin Foster from Scarva, along with a number of cancer patients and other cancer charities, met with Health Minister Edwin Poots to further highlight the issue.
The three month campaign which began on June 17, is calling for local cancer patients to be given the same access to cancer medicines as patients in England. Campaigners are asking the NI Assembly to scrap the unfair ‘exceptionality’ clause designed to prevent 95% of cancer patients gaining access to new drugs and put in place the funding needed to give Equal Access to cancer drugs without any further delay.
Led by Cancer Focus NI, partnered by Daily Mirror NI and supported by 14 local charities the campaign has so far over 11,700 pledges – the target being 20,000. There were 10,000 pledges of support within the first 11 days. The pledges will all be delivered to the Health Minister this autumn.
Roisin Foster said: “Unfortunately there are very few people who have not been touched by cancer. The message is clear – we’re calling for the public to back our Equal Access campaign.
“Yesterday’s meeting was encouraging. We received a firm commitment from the Minister to work to find a speedy, politically acceptable resolution to this issue.
“We cannot allow access to essential drugs to become bogged down in politics. Patients simply cannot afford this delay. There are too many patients in NI that have had to go without the drugs they desperately need or have had no choice but to self-fund, taking out second mortgages or spending their pension pot to get access to these drugs.”
Local MLAs are also backing the campaign. Urging the public to lend their support, Dolores Kelly said: “This is something which touches us all given the prevalence of cancer in our community. We all now know someone who is or has been effected by cancer.
“It is so important that cancer patients in Northern Ireland receive the cancer care they deserve.”
Highlighting the issue on the Banbridge Saints and Sinners facebook page, Paul Scappaticci said: “Just because we live in Northern Ireland we shouldn’t be discriminated against, especially with something as life affecting as this”.
Emmalene Magill added: “It’s ridiculous that we are a part of the UK and yet are denied treatment that is available elsewhere.”
Monica Crooks said: “As human beings we should be entitled to same care as everyone else in UK.”
To pledge your support visit www.equalaccessni.org.