Our final port of call for the Demand Faster Treatment petition hand-in week was Stormont in Northern Ireland, where we gathered on a crisp but sunny morning on Monday 11th March.
Joining us to hand over the 3,007 signatures the petition received in Northern Ireland were a group of supporters wearing the purple Pancreatic Cancer UK t-shirts and holding aloft signs demanding faster treatment. We were also joined by the local MP, Gavin Robinson, and an amazing eight MLAs, representing all of the main parties in Northern Ireland – Steve Aiken (UUP), Steven Agnew (Green Party), Paula Bradshaw (Alliance Party and Chair of the All Party Group on Cancer), Mark Durkan (SDLP Health Spokesperson), Orlaithi Flynn (Sinn Fein), Fra McCann (Sinn Fein), Pat Sheehan (Sinn Fein) and ex-Minister for Health Jim Wells (DUP). We were delighted to receive this strong cross-party support for the campaign.
Shortly after midday, we took a short stroll over to the Department of Health offices (meeting a passer-by on the way who told us she would soon be doing a sponsored run for Pancreatic Cancer UK!) Once there, we were met by Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, to receive the petition, which was handed over by Tom Hawthorne, a supporter whose pancreatic cancer was caught early enough to receive a successful operation.
In the absence of a functioning Government in Northern Ireland at the moment, the Department of Health, which Mr Pengelly leads, has the power to set policy direction for the NHS. Following the recent announcement that Northern Ireland would be developing a Cancer Strategy, we were really pleased to receive confirmation from the Permanent Secretary that we will be a key partner in the development of the strategy.
We look forward to meeting with Mr Pengelly soon to follow up on the petition and ensure the Cancer Strategy takes action towards delivering faster treatment for pancreatic cancer patients.
Thank you to everyone in Northern Ireland who demanded faster treatment.