New pancreatic cancer partnership announced

Date published: 30 November 2023

A new partnership to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer in NI has been announced today.

Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne (66) from Lisburn
Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne (66) from Lisburn

The Department of Health together with Pancreatic Cancer UK and local-charity NIPANC have partnered to develop a new regional care pathway for pancreatic cancer patients in Northern Ireland.

Professor Mark Taylor, Expert Advisor at the Department of Health made the announcement during a research event at Queen’s University Belfast. Professor Taylor said: “The survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is too low. We need to continue to take action to ensure that pancreatic cancer is diagnosed as early as possible, and that patients receive the treatment and support that they require as early as possible.

“Early diagnosis is important because if the cancer can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage, before it has spread or grown too large, then survival rates for patients are significantly better.

“This partnership between the Department of Health and the two charities, Pancreatic Cancer UK and NIPANC is a very positive move forward.”

Outlining the next steps, Professor Taylor said: “Work to implement the pathway across Northern Ireland will now be taken forward by a Clinical Reference Group. It will involve making a number of minor changes to current practice; increasing communication and awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease; and ensuring that pancreatic cancer patients across the region receive a consistent standard of care.

“While change will not happen overnight, this partnership helps us to make significant steps towards ensuring that all pancreatic cancer patients across Northern Ireland have a faster, fairer pathway throughout their diagnosis, treatment and care.”

Dawn Crosby, Head of Nations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Northern Ireland’s commitment to a new, improved care pathway for pancreatic cancer is a first by any UK nation and a landmark moment in the fight against this devastating disease. We are enormously proud to be partnering with NIPANC and the Department of Health. The model we have developed represents the consensus of hundreds of health professionals, patients and their loved ones from across the UK. Once rolled-out, it will give everyone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the very best chance of survival and as much precious time as possible with those that matter most to them. Now we need to see other UK Governments follow Northern Ireland’s lead in transforming their approach to meet the unique challenges posed by pancreatic cancer.”

Ivan McMinn MBE, a Trustee of NIPANC and pancreatic cancer survivor said: “Our partnership will have a determined focus on improving outcomes for patients in Northern Ireland and beyond who face a devastating diagnosis of this disease. Last May, we released the results of the first audit in over 10-years into pancreatic cancer in NI. It showed an 86% increase in confirmed cases rising from 152 in 2001 to 283 in 2020. The findings prompted us to call for a strengthening of local pancreatic cancer services.

“This new collaboration with the Department of Health and Pancreatic Cancer UK is a major step forward in bringing about much needed change. Our research partners at the NI Cancer Registry at Queen’s University Belfast, are using the audit to carry out further award-winning research into identifying key areas for improvement across a pancreatic cancer patient’s pathway. This work, coupled with the significant medical expertise and local connections we have at NIPANC, will form part of our contribution to a collaboration that will have benefits for NI, the wider UK and beyond. This announcement on the last day of our #TimeMatters awareness raising campaign during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month is very welcome news.”

Pancreatic cancer survivor Tom Hawthorne from Lisburn welcomed the new partnership, saying: “This is really welcome news. When it comes to pancreatic cancer, time matters - early diagnosis is so important.

“I was so lucky to have such a fantastic GP. My advice is look after your fitness and please, please research the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Be proactive. Don’t wait. Go to your doctor. It’s not going to go away. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better the prognosis.”

Notes to editors: 

1. Pancreatic Cancer UK is taking on pancreatic cancer through research, support and campaigning to transform the future for people affected.

• it provides expert, personalised support and information via our Support Line (Freephone 0808 801 0707) and through a range of publications.
• it funds innovative research to find the breakthroughs that will change how we understand, diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer.
• it campaigns for change; for better care, treatment and research, and for pancreatic cancer to have the recognition it needs.

2. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by e-mail:

3. Follow us on X @healthdpt and linkedIn Department of Health NI | LinkedIn

4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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