NHS missing cancer treatment referral targets, figures show
THE NHS in Scotland is failing to meet a key target for cancer treatment, new figures have shown.
The Scottish Government set the target of having 95 per cent of patients start treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred if they are suspected of having cancer.
• NHS miss cancer patient referral targets by 0.2 per cent
• Figures represent a 2.1 per cent drop from the previous quarter
The NHS narrowly missed achieving this, hitting 94.8 per cent.
The figures, which cover January to March, are down from the 96.9 per cent recorded in the previous quarter.
Labour public health spokesman Richard Simpson said: “It is concerning that cancer performance is slipping under the SNP. The percentage of patients receiving treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral has suffered a notable drop in these statistics.”
NHS Grampian, NHS Orkney, NHS Shetland, NHS Fife and NHS Forth Valley all failed to meet the target. The Orkney health board treated just 71.4 per cent of patients within 62 days of them being urgently referred.
Across Scotland, of those suspected of having breast cancer, 99.2 per cent began treatment within two months of referral. This only happened for 90.9 per cent of patients where colorectal cancer was suspected.
Although the overall 95 per cent target is not being met, the figures show another key cancer waiting times target continues to be achieved.
In the first three months of the year 97.9 per cent of patients began their treatment within 31 days of a decision being taken on how best to help them. While this exceeds 95 per cent, it is down slightly on the 98.2 per cent recorded in the previous quarter.
Dr Simpson hit out: “Proportionately, fewer Scots are being treated within the target times set out by the SNP Government. I am concerned that this does not become a consistent trend in the NHS in Scotland, and I call on Nicola Sturgeon to take the necessary steps to stop the worsening of performance in treating cancer.”
He insisted Labour would make the early diagnosis of cancer a “real priority” by introducing a right to see a cancer specialist and get results within two weeks.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon stressed the importance of both detecting and treating cancer early.
“We know that the earlier cancer is detected and treated, the greater the chance of survival, and that is why the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that those patients requiring the most urgent treatment have swift access to the services they need,” she said.
“Through our Detect Cancer Early programme we are investing £30 million in ensuring that patients across Scotland receive the best possible treatment in the shortest possible timescale.”
The figures show that “waiting times for cancer treatment remain consistently low, with almost 98 per cent of patients starting treatment within 31 days”, she said.
“In fact, half of these patients were treated within six days. In addition, just under 95 per cent of patients were treated within 62 days.
“Our cervical and breast cancer screening programmes also continue to perform well, with 100 per cent of cervical screening patients and 99 per cent of breast screening patients treated within 31 days.
“NHS staff across Scotland will continue working hard to maintain this level of performance as the Detect Cancer Early programme develops over the coming months and years.”
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