Scot patients wait extra months for ‘urgent’ cancer care

A patient was forced wait 315 days for vital cancer treatment to begin.
A patient was forced wait 315 days for vital cancer treatment to begin.
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Cancer patients in every part of the country are being forced to wait months longer for vital care, despite receiving urgent referrals from doctors.

Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed that, this year, a patient in Glasgow was forced to wait 315 days for treatment to begin.

This represents the second biggest wait since 2010 and underlines the challenges currently facing Scotland’s hospitals in the face of staff shortages.

Under Scottish Government targets, cancer patients urgently referred should begin their treatment within 62 days.

The longest waits across the country where uncovered by shadow health secretary Miles Briggs through a parliamentary question.

It showed in 2017, that on top of the wait in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, someone in the Western Isles waited 275 days.

Other health boards like Forth Valley (209 days), Highland (202 days) and Lanarkshire (195 days) also recorded lengthy individual waits.

Colin Graham, chief executive of Cancer Support Scotland, said: “The government has claimed that Scotland provides world-leading cancer care but cancer targets have been missed for four years.

“The key question is not how much money is being devoted to cancer care but how and where it is being spent and why so many NHS boards are failing to meet the prescribed targets.”

The highest wait recorded since 2010 was five years ago, when a cancer patient was forced to wait 399 days for treatment.

Mr Briggs said: “This isn’t just a one-off case of a patient having to wait hundreds of days because of a freak set of circumstances. Every year patients across Scotland are facing unacceptable delays for vital treatment. If a cancer patient is urgently referred by a doctor, they should not have to wait longer than the 62-day target timeframe.

“If anything, with so much at stake, they should be seen to even more quickly. This is just another damning statistic which exposes the SNP’s shambolic running of the NHS.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about helping those who need it most, it would sort this situation out as a matter of urgency.”

To support improvement, the Scottish Government have pledged an additional £4 million to support immediate improvements in capacity for diagnostic scopes, imaging and outpatient appointments for suspected cancer patients.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Early detection and treatment of all cancers is crucial, which is why we have set robust standards, and it may be that some cases are delayed for clinical reasons.

“Once a decision to treat has been made, the average wait for cancer treatment is currently six days.

“However, to ensure waiting times are as short as possible in all cases we have set up a cancer performance delivery group to focus on driving forward improvements in waiting times for diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients.”