Up to £17m in extra funding over the next two years has been promised as part of a “recovery and redesign” of Scotland’s cancer services.
The Scottish Government aims to overhaul treatment in light of the coronavirus pandemic and has published a plan setting out changes up to March 2023.
This includes a partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support to give each patient access to a key support worker, which was delayed by the onset of Covid-19.
Ministers said it will make Scotland the first country in the UK to provide this “financial, practical and emotional support”.
The plan also aims to minimise waiting times and make patient pathways “smoother”, as well as ensuring access to care and treatment is equal across all of Scotland.
In her foreword to the report, health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This action plan for cancer services will review the new circumstances in which we operate, including positive innovations that have emerged in the NHS, and introduce a wide range of new actions and areas of focus for cancer services.
“These actions will both redesign cancer services to benefit patients and increase our services’ overall resilience to future rises in Covid-19 prevalence.”
She added: “Working to a horizon of March 2023 and with the provision of up to an additional £17m of funding, subject to annual parliamentary approval, in addition to a committed spend of £97.5m, this plan has been produced with input from a wide range of stakeholders, all of whom will be crucial to supporting its delivery over this period.”
Cancer Research UK’s senior external affairs spokeswoman in Scotland, Marion O’Neill, said: “During the pandemic, cancer has not stopped devastating families in Scotland.
“Waiting lists are growing and many patients have faced disruption to their treatment.
“That’s why a plan to address the recovery of cancer services is so important – clearing the backlog of people waiting for tests and treatment is essential as pressure builds on the NHS this winter during this second wave of Covid-19.”
She added: “While there are some welcome commitments here, including plans to set up one-stop shops for cancer diagnosis, it isn’t clear how some of the biggest challenges facing cancer services today will be tackled.
“What we don’t see here is how to address the acute staff shortages that existed even before the pandemic struck.”
She called on the Scottish Government to invest in the workforce to ensure the pledges can be met.