£10m to tackle cancer patient waiting times after worst stats on record

The funding for Scottish health boards comes after more people were left waiting longer than 62 days for treatment.

Scottish Government pledges £10m to tackle cancer patient waiting times after worst stats on record iStock

Health boards across Scotland are to be given £10m in a bid to improve waiting times for cancer treatment.

The funding is being made available by the Scottish Government and will be shared throughout the NHS.

It aims to boost the number of operations available, create extra clinics and upskill new staff.

In delivering training to new staff, it is hoped that the delivery of endoscopy, radiology and chemotherapy treatment can be sped up.

In June, cancer treatment waiting time performance fell to a new record low.

The standard, which has not been met since 2012, states that 95% of eligible patients should wait a maximum of 62 days from urgent suspicion of cancer referral to first cancer treatment.

Figures for the first quarter of 2022 show performance against treatment target fell to 76.9%, down from 79.1% in the previous quarter.

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A £114.5m National Cancer Plan has already been set out by the Scottish Government to ensure equal access to care across the country.

Boards were also last year allocated £10m in order to support the running of cancer services in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said the extra funding being made available would help drive down waiting times for treatment.

“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,” said Yousaf.

“That’s testament to the relentless efforts of our fantastic healthcare staff across the country.

“However, we must do 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 £10m cash boost to drive down waiting times so that cancer patients can receive the best care as early as possible.”

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The Scottish Conservatives raised concerns that the funding may not be enough to tackle the issue of waiting times.

Tess White, the party’s public health spokesperson, warned of a “ticking timebomb” in the Government’s failure to meet its waiting times target.

“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 £10m will barely touch the sides – such is the scale of the problem,” said White.

“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.”

White added: “Like many of the problems in Scotland’s NHS, this one can be traced back to poor workforce planning by successive SNP health secretaries, which has left dedicated frontline staff over-stretched and unable to cope with the demands being placed upon them.”

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