HEALTH boards which consistently fail to hit cancer waiting time targets are to be monitored by specialist teams to help bring them up to standard.
The latest figures for October to December last year showed that across Scotland 94.6 per cent of patients urgently referred with suspicion of cancer started treatment within two months, just below the 95 per cent target.
But within these figures wide variations emerged between health boards, prompting the Scottish Government to set up weekly monitoring in these areas to improve the care of patients.
During the last quarter of 2013, five of Scotland’s 14 boards failed to hit the 95 per cent standard for patients being seen within 62 days.
These included Scotland’s two largest boards - Greater Glasgow and Clyde at 94.2 per cent and Lothian at 94.3 per cent.
The poorest performance was in Tayside at 90 per cent, while Grampian achieved 92 per cent and Highland just below target at 94.7 per cent.
The figures, published by Information Services Division Scotland, also showed wide variations in performance between different cancers, with six out of ten types of cancer falling below the 95 per cent standard.
While 98.8 per cent of breast cancer patients started treatment within two months of being urgently referred, this fell to a low of 89.3 per cent of those with skin cancer.
Performance was also below standard for colorectal cancer (93.6 per cent), head and neck cancers (90.7 per cent), lung cancer (91.3 per cent), lymphoma (91.5 per cent) and urological cancers, such as prostate cancer, at 93.7 per cent.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said as a result of the poorer performance in some parts of Scotland, boards would receive extra monitoring to bring up standards.
“While NHS Scotland provides some of the best cancer care in the world, we scrutinise waiting times performance because patients should not suffer unnecessary distress because of lengthy waits for a diagnosis or to start their treatment,” he said.
“We are monitoring on a weekly basis those health boards who are not regularly meeting the 62-day cancer standard and a support team is visiting boards to offer additional advice.
“I believe that this group will bring about real improvements and help health boards to ensure that these key targets will be met in the future.”
Mr Neil said the Scottish Government would do everything it could to make sure that all patients and their families get the support they needed.
“This includes ensuring that those requiring urgent treatment have swift access to specialist services which has resulted in almost 98 per cent of patients start treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat between October and December 2013,” he said.
“We are doing all of this because we know that the earlier cancer is detected and treated, the greater the chance of survival.
“We have set ourselves the ambition to increase early detection and raise Scotland’s cancer survival rates.
“We continue to tell the public ‘don’t get scared, get checked’ and will do everything we can to ensure that once they get checked they are treated as quickly as possible.”