Cancer survivor confronts the health secretary on 62-day wait

WAITING times for cancer treatment need to be cut, the Scottish Government was told yesterday.

The Scotland Against Cancer conference in Glasgow heard Nicola Sturgeon, the health secretary, setting out what was being done to improve cancer care for Scottish patients.

But one cancer survivor, who spoke at the Cancer Research UK event, challenged ministers to be more ambitious in reducing the time patients have to wait before starting treatment.

Cancer experts later said that patients elsewhere in Europe would be "outraged" by having to wait two months to start treatment, with most being seen within two weeks.

The current target of 62 days from urgent referral by a doctor to starting treatment has still not been met in Scotland, despite that originally being the target figure for 2005.

Ms Sturgeon stressed that the 62-day target was a maximum wait and many patients would start treatment much sooner.

Heather Goodare, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986 when living in West Sussex, thanked Ms Sturgeon for the initiatives she had put in place to improve cancer care. But she challenged her over the "very unambitious" 62-day target.

"For some slow-growing cancers 31 days is perfectly OK, but for others it is just not acceptable at all," she told the health secretary.

Mrs Goodare, who now lives in Edinburgh, said when she was diagnosed over 22 years ago, she had to wait only two weeks before having surgery to remove the lump from her breast.

"I don't understand why things have gone backwards," she said.

Ms Sturgeon said everyone in the NHS had worked together to reduce waiting times and they were now very close to hitting the 62-day mark.

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