The number of people waiting more than six weeks for key medical tests has increased by almost 350 per cent in just two years, new figures revealed, prompting cancer charities to call for urgent action.
At the end of December 2017 15,956 people were waiting longer than the target time for diagnostic procedures such as CT scans, MRI scans and ultrasounds.
That compares to 3,554 at 31 December 2015, and while the number of people on the list for tests rose 47.6 per cent to 77,256 in that time, there was an increase of 348.9 per cent in the number waiting more than six weeks for the checks.
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said the latest health service figures “paint a picture of a service struggling to keep up with growing demand”.
He stated: “Waiting to find out if you do or don’t have cancer can cause huge anxiety to patients. Staff shortages are partly to blame and the recent initiative to recruit more radiologists will go some way to alleviate current pressures.
“But a more urgent plan for all diagnostic staff is needed.”
Janice Preston, head of Macmillan Services in Scotland, stated: “To wait more than six weeks for that critical test must seem like an eternity filled with stress and anxiety.
“Ensuring that people are diagnosed as quickly as possible is vital in both supporting patients and boosting the chances of survival.
“Cancer waiting times haven’t been met since 2012 and these latest statistics add to a growing issue that must be addressed head on.
“While action has been taken, we want to work with the Scottish Government to face the challenge of supporting the vastly increasing number of people with cancer.”
According to the figures, the number of people being tested within six weeks has fallen from 94.7 per cent in February 2016 to a low of 79.3 per cent in December 2017.
Meanwhile the number waiting more than six weeks for an endoscopy – where a tiny camera is inserted into the body – has gone from 2,563 in June 2016 to a high of 11,105 at 31 December 2017.
Health secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government has made £4.85 million available to support access to diagnostics for suspected cancer patients, including £2m for improvements to scopes alone.
“I have made it clear to boards that they must continue to treat these patients with the highest priority.”