Cancer patients waiting longer than Scottish Government target

The number of cancer patients who are having to wait longer than the Scottish Government's target of 62 days to receive treatment has increased, according to official statistics.

Cancer waiting times not being met
Cancer waiting times not being met

Figures published by the Information Services Division (ISD) indictate only 81.4 per cent of patients, a drop of 3.2 per cent from the previous quarter, managed to be urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer against a 95 per cent target.

On top of this none of the 10 reported cancer types met the 62-day standard with only two health boards NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire achieving the required target.

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READ MORE: Percentage of patients waiting longer than target for cancer treatment hits new highThe target has not been met at national level since 2012, with the Scottish Government announcing last October, a £850 million investment under its Waiting Times Improvement Plan, which aims to “substantially and sustainably improve NHS waiting times”.

However Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the failure to meet the 62-day target across Scotland is “simply not good enough”.

She added: “We are committed to significantly improving the experience of patients waiting to be seen or treated.

“I have been clear with Health Boards that achieving this will require a focused, intense programme of work that accelerates action that is already underway.”

The 95 per cent target was met for the 31-day standard - which states patients must be seen within this time following a decision to treat to the first cancer treatment - with 95.1 per cent of patients doing so, a slight increase from 95.0 per cent in the previous quarter.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Monica Lennon said: “Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and these latest figures prove we need much more ambition and action from the Scottish Government in order to beat it.

“People living in our most deprived communities continue to experience the worst outcomes.

“This is not an inevitability; the right public health policies and targeted investment will save lives.”

READ MORE: Leader comment: SNP’s extra £655m to cut NHS waiting times is a gambleThe failure to meet the 62-day standard was described as “worrying” by Gregor McNie of Cancer Research UK.

He said: “Waiting for treatment to start is an anxious time for patients and these delays are far from acceptable.

“We know some progress has been made and we’re pleased to see the Scottish Government has committed to improvements through its Waiting Times Improvement Plan.

“Cancer services in Scotland are struggling to cope as every year more people are referred for diagnostic tests. Staff shortages remain a serious concern. Swift action from the Scottish Government is needed to ensure there are enough staff in Scotland to deliver the vital tests people need.”