Trio take cancer drugs campaign to Stormont

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Banbridge was well represented at Stormont last week as three women delivered a hard-hitting call for equal access to cancer drugs.

Tracy Martin, daughter of the late Banbridge businessman Brian Martin who died following a battle with cancer last November, Ulster Unionist NLA Jo-Anne Dobson and Cancer Focus NI chief executive Roisin Foster had previously pledged to work together in Brian’s memory to fight for the rights of all cancer patients in Northern Ireland.

They are concerned that local patients do not receive access to life-enhancing and life-extending medicines which are available to those living in other regions of the United Kingdom.

The three women joined forces again last Wednesday at Stormont where the issue was being debated.

Tracy, who made a presentation to the Stormont Health Committee alongside Mrs Foster said: “I feel passionately that the health service shouldn’t be about figures and numbers but about real people.

“That’s why I wanted the members of the Health Committee to hear dad’s story and how the lack of availability of certain drugs here affected his life as he battled with cancer.

“I want to do this in his memory, to make sure that his fight for equality of access for patients goes on.”

Tracy said she would like to thank both Roisin and Jo-Anne for all their help and encouragement with the campaign.

Mrs Dobson said: “Tracy presented so well and I know her dad would be so so proud of her.

“We have always supported a fund to make the specialist medicines available to patients in Northern Ireland on a par with other regions of the UK.

“There shouldn’t be a post-code lottery of access and patients should receive the drugs and treatments which their clinicians feel they need.

“I am pleased that the Minister has finally agreed to put a specialist fund in place and pay tribute to everyone who joined us in lobbying hard for this,” she said.

“But crucially this should not be tied up with the debate around reintroducing prescription charges which is a totally separate issue.

“What we now need to urgently hear from the Minister is when the first patients will receive these new drugs and also a guarantee that the process will be led by clinical need rather than finances.”