MORE than 1200 Scots have been kept waiting longer than they should have for vital cancer treatment.
Freedom of Information papers reveal a crucial 62-day target has been missed for hundreds of cancer patients given an urgent referral.
The NHS is supposed to ensure 95% of patients diagnosed with cancer commence treatment within 62 days if urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer.
But the fact the key goal is being missed has hugely concerned Holyrood opponents and cancer charity leaders, who have branded the news a “scandal” and “extremely concerning”.
It comes after official data published last year confirmed the Scottish Government’s waiting times standard had not been met for three years running.
Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “These figures are a scandal. It is completely unacceptable that more than 1000 patients have waited longer than they were promised for cancer treatment in 2016.
“Performance on the 62-day standard in particular has not been met in three years, yet there appears to be complete inertia from the SNP Government.
“Waiting longer for treatment can increase anxiety for patients and their families.
“These figures aren’t dry statistics – they are fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters across the country not getting the treatment promised.
“Labour has been arguing for years that if your doctor suspects you have cancer, you should expect to see a specialist and get a diagnosis in two weeks.”
Janice Preston, general manager of Macmillan in Scotland, has echoed the concerns.
She said waiting added to the stress of something already enormously worrying.
“Health boards and the Scottish Government must identify why these targets are being repeatedly missed and work together to take urgent action to rectify this,” she added.
Health Secretary Shona Robison claimed improvements were under way as part of a service shake-up as she underlined “unprecedented demand” for cancer treatment.
She said: “As our population lives longer, more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer.
“At the current rate, we expect to see a 25% increase in the number of people diagnosed with cancer by 2027.
“However, due to medical advances and improvements in our NHS, people were much more likely to survive cancer in 2016 than at any point in history.
“All of this together means our cancer services are facing unprecedented demand across Scotland.”