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Scottish Government announces £10m to tackle cancer waiting times

(Peter Byrne/PA)
(Peter Byrne/PA)

The Scottish Government has pledged £10 million to tackle cancer treatment waiting times, the Health Secretary has announced.

The funding, Humza Yousaf has said, will go towards increasing the number of available operations, creating extra clinics and training new staff to speed up the delivery of endoscopy, radiology and chemotherapy.

But the Scottish Tories have questioned if the figure will “touch the sides”.

A target set by the Scottish Government to ensure that 95% of patients wait no longer than 62 days from an urgent referral to the start of their first treatment has only been met once – in the final quarter of 2012.

In the first quarter of this year, 76.9% of patients began treatment within the 62 days – the lowest figure on record.

Another target, which aims to ensure that 95% of patients begin treatment no longer than 31 days after the decision is made to treat, is more regularly hit, with 96.3% of patients meeting the standard in the first quarter of this year.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, NHS Scotland has consistently met the 31-day standard for starting cancer treatment with an average wait of four days once a decision to treat has been made – that’s testament to the relentless efforts of our fantastic healthcare staff across the country,” Mr Yousaf said.

“However we must to more to improve our 62-day performance.

“Covid has not gone away and pressures remain, which is why we are providing health boards with a £10 million cash boost to drive down waiting times so that cancer patients can receive the best care as early as possible.”

Scottish Tory public health spokeswoman Tess White, however, said: “While I welcome any additional funds to try to tackle the cancer waiting-time crisis that the SNP Government have presided over, I fear this £10 million will barely touch the sides – such is the scale of the problem.

“The most recent official figures – the worst on record – show that almost a quarter of patients with an urgent suspicion of cancer did not begin treatment within 62 days.

“And this can’t be blamed solely on the pandemic, as it’s almost 10 years since the SNP met their own target of 95% of patients beginning treatment within two months.

“Early detection and treatment of cancer is crucial to patients’ survival chances, so these unacceptable failings are creating a ticking timebomb that will inevitably lead to avoidable deaths.”