Urgent cancer treatment targets missed in Scotland

Targets have been missed for cancer treatments
Targets have been missed for cancer treatments
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Patients are facing a postcode lottery over vital cancer treatments as new figures revealed only three out of 14 health boards met a key government waiting times standard.

Any patients with concerning symptoms should be guaranteed cancer treatment within two months of their appointment with their GP, A&E or cancer screening.

Official NHS data shows only 90 per cent were treated against the 95 per cent target in the final three months of 2015, which has not been met nationally since 2013.

The Scottish Government recently announced its £100 million cancer strategy to improve prevention and early diagnosis.

Delays differed widely across Scotland, as some patients in Highland waited up to 211 days while the longest wait in Dumfries and Galloway was 91 days.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager for Scotland, said: “It’s concerning that the 62 day waiting time target is being missed across Scotland once again, and particularly that this waiting time varies between different regions.

“Scotland’s new cancer strategy commits increased investment to diagnostic services and it’s important for all cancer patients this money is spent swiftly and effectively.

“A cancer diagnosis is an extremely distressing time for patients and their families so it’s vital that all patients receive a quick diagnosis and access to the best possible treatment.”

Only NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire met the benchmark.

Patients with ovarian cancer and melanoma skin cancer were more likely to be treated promptly, reaching 97.3 per cent and 96.4 per cent of patients respectively.

Meanwhile people with bladder cancers and some kinds of cervical cancer had the worst chances of prompt treatment.

Scottish Labour equalities spokesperson Jenny Marra said: “That simply isn’t good enough and a damning assessment of nearly a decade of the SNP in power.

“Under the SNP government we have seen failed performance on waiting times, worrying trends in screening and diagnosis, especially in poorer areas, and a cancer strategy that was a year overdue and months behind its equivalent in England.

“Labour will recognise the importance of swift action and cut cancer waiting times – a guaranteed faster diagnosis if you fear you have cancer. If your GP suspects cancer under Labour you would see a see a specialist and get results within a fortnight.”

A separate standard that demands patients receive treatment within 31 days of the decision to treat was met.

A spokesperson for Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “On cancer waiting times, we are continuing to meet the 31-day target, and improving on the 62-day target, but we want to go further faster, which is why we’ve brought forward a £100m strategy to tackle cancer.”