Scotland NHS winter fears: New record low for cancer treatment waiting time performance

Scotland’s cancer treatment waiting time performance has been branded “unacceptable” after falling to a new record low, the latest figures have revealed.

The country’s 62-day standard states 95 per cent of patients should wait a maximum of 62 days from urgent suspicion of cancer referral to first cancer treatment.

However, statistics from Public Health Scotland show for the second quarter of this year – April 1 to June 30 – just 76.3 per cent of patients started treatment within that timeframe.

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This is down from the 76.9 per cent reported in the previous quarter. The standard has not been met since the end of 2012.

Cancer waiting time performance has hit a record low in Scotland. Picture: SWNS
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The Scottish Conservatives said health secretary Humaza Yousaf should be “ashamed” of the figures.

The party’s health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “Humza Yousaf should be ashamed of these worst-on-record figures, which highlight the ticking timebomb when it comes to cancer diagnosis in Scotland.

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“We know that early diagnosis is crucial to patients’ survival chances, so it’s frightening and unacceptable that almost a quarter are not beginning treatment within 62 days of their first referral.

“The health secretary can’t hide behind the pandemic as an excuse for this failure because the target has not been met by the SNP in almost a decade.”

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Health spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, Jackie Baillie, said: “This is nothing short of catastrophic, but the SNP Government are nowhere to be seen.

“Humza Yousaf’s dangerous incompetence has broken yet another grim record, despite the tireless efforts of dedicated NHS staff.

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“The SNP have ignored warning after warning as services fell into chaos, leaving us with a ticking timebomb of untreated cancer that will cost lives and overwhelm our NHS.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said Mr Yousaf must “stop sticking his head in the sand”.

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Health spokesman and party leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “After a decade of missing this target, the continued decline in cancer waiting times is intolerable.”

Performance against another target – the 31-day standard from the decision to treat to first cancer treatment – saw 95.5 per cent being seen within this timeframe.

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While this was above the target of 95 per cent of patients waiting 31 days from decision to treat to first cancer treatment, the figure was still down from 96.3 per cent in the previous quarter.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The 31-day standard has been consistently met throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with a median wait of five days.

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“Despite treating more patients on a 62-day pathway compared to pre-Covid this quarter, and with a median wait of 47 days, performance remains challenged overall and we must do more.

“Cancer remains a priority for NHS Scotland, but Covid has not gone away – pressures remain in diagnostic and treatment pathways.” In August we released an additional £10 million of funding to boards to support recovery and redesign of cancer services focusing on the most challenged pathways and to reduce backlogs.”

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