Scotland is facing a “tsunami of cancer deaths”, Labour has warned, claiming that some 10,000 people with the disease may miss out on surgery over the next two years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The party’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon raised her concerns about the impact a reduction in operations would have – branding the move “wrongheaded”.
With NHS surgery to run at 60% of capacity over the next two years as a result of the pandemic, Labour fears the number of cancer patients having operations could fall from more than 12,000 a year to about 7,000.
Ms Lennon said: “Scotland is facing a tsunami of cancer deaths if SNP ministers go ahead with their planned cuts to operations.”
She called on Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to “live up to her responsibilities now and give cancer patients the care they deserve”.
Almost 6,000 Scots have died from cancer during the pandemic, Labour said, more than the total number of deaths so far from coronavirus, with National Records of Scotland figures showing that by August 9 there were 4,213 cases where Covid-19 was mentioned on a death certificate.
In addition, almost 400,000 checks for bowel, breast and cervical cancer were delayed when screening programmes were put on hold – although these are now restarting.
In June, campaigners at Macmillan Cancer Support said it was now seven years since the Scottish Government’s target of having 95% of cancer patients start treatment within two months was met.
Ms Lennon said: “SNP ministers were responsible for a crisis in cancer services long before coronavirus hit and cancer remains the most common cause of death in Scotland, with more people dying from cancer during the pandemic than from Covid-19.
“Nearly 6,000 Scots have died from cancer during the pandemic and almost 400,000 cancer screenings have been cancelled. The plan to cut operations is wrong-headed.
“The Scottish Government did not prepare properly for the threat of a pandemic and NHS patients are suffering as a result.
“Ministers must take their responsibilities seriously and ensure that all cancer patients receive swift diagnoses and treatment.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is extremely misleading to use those figures because cancer surgery in Scotland is currently operating at close to pre-Covid levels.
“At the end of March, a UK-wide report estimated that all surgeries would run at only 60% capacity but that has proven to not be the case.
“Our cancer surgery framework makes clear that cancer patients should be prioritised across Scotland.
“We have also just announced that a new national plan for cancer services will be published in the autumn to ensure patients continue to have access to the best possible treatments.”
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