Cancer patients face worst waits for a decade, say experts

Cancer patients are enduring the worst waiting times for a decade with 13 per cent missing the Scottish Government's target for starting treatment, it was claimed yesterday.

Cancer patients are enduring the worst waiting times for a decade. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Scottish Government’s ambition is for 95 per cent of those who are referred with suspected cancer to be treated within two months.

But official figures showed that in the period April to June 2017 only 86.9 per cent of patients began receiving help within 62 days - down from 88.1 per cent in the previous quarter.

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Janice Preston, the head of Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland said: “Waiting times for cancer treatment are now worse than they were ten years ago when they were first introduced. Waiting to start treatment is an incredibly stressful time for most people. It’s vital the reasons behind these delays are understood and a solution found.

“But we need a long term solution, not a temporary fix. The cancer care system must adapt to meet the challenge of supporting the vastly increased numbers of people with cancer.”

Only three health boards in Scotland - NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Orkney - met the key cancer waiting times target. Meanwhile the latest NHS statistics showed the 95 per cent target was only achieved for breast cancer patients, with no other cancer types meeting this.

Almost one in five patients with head and neck cancer had to wait longer than two months for treatment to begin, with 80.8 per cent beginning their care within 62 days.

Meanwhile less than three quarters of those being treated for urological cancers started treatment in this time.

There were 3,493 patients who were urgently referred because cancer was suspected over the period April to June, a rise of 11.6 per cent on the same period in 2016.

The NHS in Scotland also narrowly missed a target for starting treatment within a month of a decision being made that this was necessary. The target is that 95 per cent of patients should wait no more than 31 days after the decision is made to treat them, but this was achieved for 94.8 per cent of patients in April to June.

Health Secretary Shona Robison has announced a a new delivery group to improve waiting times for diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients - acknowledging “some waits are too long”.Ms Robison said she was “determined to go further”, saying an extra £3 million would increase the number of radiology trainees.