THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: ‘Courage, foresight and goodwill’ to fight cancer

From the News Letter, June 12, 1946
Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. NLI Ref.: L_CAB_04203. Picture: National Library of IrelandRoyal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. NLI Ref.: L_CAB_04203. Picture: National Library of Ireland
Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. NLI Ref.: L_CAB_04203. Picture: National Library of Ireland

A single cancer scheme for Northern Ireland administered by a statutory body composed of representatives of the county and county borough councils, the government, certain voluntary hospitals, the medical profession and Queen’s University was recommended in a memorandum presented by the Health Advisory Council to the Ministry of Health, reported the News Letter.

The Advisory Council also recommended the setting up, in Belfast, of a special hospital for “the treatment of cancer by surgery, radiotherapy, &c.”, and suggested that all cancer treatment should be concentrated in that hospital.

Other recommendations included: The special treatment centre should be situated in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital, “but should operate a distinct administrative unit”.

The care of cancer patients declared untreatable should form part of the cancer scheme. Both institutional and domiciliary care should be provided.

The statutory body responsible for the cancer scheme should have charge of the treatment centre and should establish a central bureau at that centre from which the scheme should administered.

The statutory body would require an expert staff, including full-time director, who “should be a radiotherapist with high professional qualifications” and that “a panel of consulting surgeons, physicians, &c”, should hold paid part-time appointments.

It also recommended that there should “a panel of professional persons concerned with the treatment of cancer” who would be available for duty “under the cancer scheme where their services are required”.

The News Letter noted that cancer was “the second great cause of mortality in Northern Ireland” and that, as in Great Britain, the council stated that legislation similar to the Cancer Act, 1939 (which was designed to initiate a national campaign against the disease Great Britain), was required in Northern Ireland.

It was pointed out in conclusion that the Health Advisory Council conclusion that the Health Advisory Council was conscious of the fact that “a considerable time must elapse before the full results of the proposed scheme are realised”. But that a start could be made, however, within the next 12 months, “and satisfactory temporary arrangements could be put into operation while the main scheme is being planned and developed”.

The memorandum stated “The first fruits may not heavy, but they should be real, and time, together with courage, foresight, and goodwill, should bring the rich harvest that all persons interested in the cancer problem desire - early diagnosis, prompt and effective treatment, and the saving of many lives.”