I met a delegation from Co-operating for Cancer Care NorthWest on 29 June. A senior official from the Department's Cancer Policy Unit was also present. A wide range of issues was discussed in relation to cancer services for the people of the North West. These included, in particular, cross-border co-operation in radiotherapy services and the roll-out of the BreastCheck programme to Donegal and other remaining counties. In regard to the provision of cross-border radiotherapy services, I advised that discussions are ongoing between officials from my Department and their counterparts in Northern Ireland following the announcement of Minister McGimpsey of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland of the provision of a satellite radiotherapy centre, linked to Belfast City Hospital, at Altnagelvin. I told the group that the facility is expected to be operational by 2015 and that I am committed to providing appropriate funding for the project.
In regard to the roll-out of BreastCheck in Clare, Donegal and Leitrim, I confirmed that the consent process for women in Clare is underway. The consent process in Donegal will begin in the second half of September with screening commencing in October, while the consent process will commence in Leitrim in October. A wide range of other issues was also discussed at the meeting including cancer screening and preventative initiatives, cross-border funding for health projects, services at Letterkenny General Hospital and transport for cancer patients. The discussion enabled me to understand the concerns of the CCC(NW) group and also to outline to them my Department's position in relation to these issues. I understand that the interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme will meet this group in the near future.