Cancer treatment waiting times in Scotland 'worst on record'

A record low of 76.3% patients in the country received treatment within the 62-day standard.

Cancer treatment waiting times in Scotland ‘worst on record’ iStock

Scotland’s cancer treatment waiting times are currently the worst on record, new figures have shown.

Concerns have been raised after the numbers, published on Tuesday, show that 76.3% of patients started treatment within the expected standard time between April and June 2022.

The standard time period expects 95% of patients to wait no longer than 62 days to receive treatment from initial urgent suspicion of cancer.

“Waits for cancer treatment in Scotland have drifted from bad, to worse, to dreadful across the past three years – enough is enough,” said Kate Seymour, head of advocacy for Macmillan Cancer Support Group in Scotland.

Calling for “urgent action”, she highlighted how time was of the essence when it comes to cancer treatment – with delays often leading to “poorer health, worse outcomes, and intense stress and worry”.

Recent Macmillan analysis of official NHS data also showed that numbers waiting too long for cancer treatment in Scotland were 50% higher than pre-pandemic.

At the start of 2022, analysis showed the number of people waiting more than two months to start treatment after an urgent referral for suspected cancer had grown by 52%, compared with just before the first peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Between January 2020 and March 2020, 586 people who started treatment in Scotland had waited more than two months to do so.

In the same months this year, the figure jumped to 892 – despite little variation in the total number of people starting treatment.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP called on the health secretary to take action as today’s figures showed waiting times have dropped to the “worst on record”.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The government cannot waste any more time delivering a real cancer catch-up plan we have needed all along, so that everyone can get the treatment they need, when they need it.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson responded: “The 31-day standard has been consistently met throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with a median wait of five days. Despite treating more patients on a 62-day pathway compared to pre-Covid this quarter, and with a median wait of 47 days, performance remains challenged overall and we must do more.

“Cancer remains a priority for NHS Scotland but Covid has not gone away – pressures remain in diagnostic and treatment pathways. In August we released an additional £10m of funding to [health] boards to support recovery and redesign of cancer services focussing on the most challenged pathways and to reduce backlogs.

“This funding, supported by our Framework for Effective Cancer Management, will help drive down waiting times and improve patient experience so that cancer patients can receive the best possible care as safely and quickly as possible.”

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