Cancer Scotland: Quarter of cancer patients wait more than two months to start treatment in 'truly terrifying' figures

The latest figures around cancer treatment waiting times in Scotland have been labelled “truly terrifying”

Performance against a key cancer waiting time target has fallen, with "truly terrifying" figures showing a quarter of those urgently referred to specialists had to wait more than two months to start treatment.

The target of having patients begin treatment within 62 days of being referred to specialists was also missed for almost a third of those with prostate cancer, according to the latest Public Health Scotland (PHS) data.

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The data shows of the 4,624 Scots referred to specialists with an urgent suspicion of cancer between July and September, less than three-quarters (72 per cent) started treatment within 62 days.

The latest cancer waiting time figures do not make for good reading for the Scottish GovernmentThe latest cancer waiting time figures do not make for good reading for the Scottish Government
The latest cancer waiting time figures do not make for good reading for the Scottish Government

That is down from 73.7 per cent in the previous three months, and well below the target of 95 per cent.

The data shows no health board in Scotland achieved the 62-day target – although NHS Borders fell just short, with 94.9 per cent of those who were urgently referred beginning cancer treatment within two months.

In NHS Grampian, the target was missed for more than two-fifths of patients, with only 57 per cent starting treatment within 62 days.

While 94.7 per cent of patients suspected of having hepatopancreatobiliary cancer, which can affect the liver, pancreas and gallbladder, started their treatment in the target time, this was only achieved for 36.4 per cent of prostate cancer patients.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: "These figures are truly terrifying. It is appalling that well over a quarter of cancer patients didn't start treatment for over two months after they were diagnosed."

Accusing the Scottish Government of having "completely failed to get a grip on this crisis", Dr Gulhane said the 62-day target had now not been achieved for more than a decade.

Cancer Research UK said "chronic workforce shortages" and a lack of specialist equipment mean "the system can't cope".

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "While the median wait from an urgent suspicion of cancer referral to treatment is 50 days, and around 700 more cancer patients were treated this quarter compared to pre-Covid, today's data shows that diagnostic pressures remain.

"The Scottish Government has invested a further £10 million this year to support cancer waiting times and continue to redesign diagnostics services – developing optimal cancer diagnostic pathways, testing the role of AI and delivering rapid cancer diagnostic services."



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