FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon tackled on cancer inequality

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon . Picture: Scottish Parliament
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon . Picture: Scottish Parliament
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Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to take action to overcome the health inequalities that mean the poorest people in Scotland are 68 per cent more likely to die from cancer than the richest.

At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale produced statistics illustrating the disparity in survival rates between rich and poor and how a patient’s treatment varied with background.

Ms Dugdale warned that cancer could become a “deprivation disease” in Scotland, citing figures showing that someone from the most deprived areas in Scotland is 32 per cent more likely to get cancer than someone from the wealthiest areas.

On the first anniversary of Ms Sturgeon’s elevation to First Minister, Ms Dugdale added that the poorest people in Scotland are 68 per cent more likely to die from cancer than the richest
The Scottish Labour leader also said that just 45% of people from poorer backgrounds get screened for bowel cancer, compared to 66 per cent for those from the wealthiest backgrounds
Ms Dugdale said that after eight years in power and a majority in Parliament it’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to start taking bold action.
She said: “In modern day Scotland the likelihood of someone getting, and then surviving, cancer too often depends on how much money they have. That wouldn’t be right in Victorian-era Scotland and it’s not right in the 21st century either. Without dramatic government action cancer could become a deprivation disease in Scotland.
“The NHS needs bold action to make it fit to face the challenges of the 2040s, not the 1940s. The SNP Government must publish its cancer strategy as soon as possible.

“Nicola Sturgeon has been a minister for eight years, including five years in charge of our NHS, yet she says she is only just getting started. With her majority in Parliament, opinion poll ratings and all her power, people in Scotland are rightly asking what Nicola Sturgeon is waiting for.”

She called on the SNP Government to publish their much-delayed cancer strategy, which had been scheduled for the beginning of the year.

Ms Sturgeon said the strategy would be published in the spring. The First Minister added that the Scottish Government was working hard to close the gap between rich and poor when it came to cancer treatment and detection.

She said the fund for new cancer medicines had been doubled, pointed to figures out this week which suggested overall death rates had fallen by 11 per cent in the last decade and said £30 million had been spent on screening programmes

 Ms Sturgeon said the issue was “far too serious for party political arguments” adding that everyone wanted an end to the situation whereby the poorest were more likely to die from the disease.