New figures released by Public Health Scotland show 100,913 patients were waiting for eight key tests as of December 31 2020 – a two per cent reduction in the number waiting for those same tests three months earlier, but 15 per cent more than those waiting a year previously.
Some 44 per cent of those waiting had been doing so for more than six weeks, compared to 21 per cent in December 2019.
Kirsty Slack, public affairs manager for Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said that while cancer services are slowly recovering in Scotland, the charity remains “deeply concerned” about the continuing backlog, which has remained at over 100,000 for more than six months.
“Waiting to find out if you have cancer is an anxious time for people, so clearing the backlog is essential,” she said.
“The Scottish Government has put forward a plan for recovery of cancer services. The plan is welcome, but long-standing staff shortages which exist within cancer services must be addressed as a priority to ensure they are fit for the future.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats called the figures “really sad”, and Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government is “failing our people and potentially putting people’s lives at risk”, while Labour’s Jackie Baillie called the waiting times a “catasrohpe waiting to happen”.
“While we all understand the NHS’s focus has been on tackling Covid, the SNP Government cannot let these patients be forgotten,” said Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.
Asked about the remobilisation of the NHS at Holyrood on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it will be a two-step process.
"Firstly, we've got to reduce the number of beds and the amount of capacity in our health service right now that is being taken up by Covid,” she said.
"And then, as we are planning – and this is underway - we have to remobilise in a way that will get through the Covid backlog of cases as quickly as possible., and there is a real focus in the Scottish Government in doing that.”