One in five patients in the Lothians are being forced to wait more than two months for vital cancer treatment to begin.
Charities said the latest quarterly figures were “unacceptable” with the key target for treating anyone suspected of having cancer within 62 days missed again.
NHS Lothian is performing below the national average and way below the targetMILES BRIGGS
Under Scottish Government guidelines, 95 per cent of cancer patients should be seen within 62 days.
However, in the Lothians 77 out of 474 eligible referrals did not undergo treatment within the agreed timescale – meaning the health board fell short of meeting the 95 per cent target having recorded 83.8 per cent for the October 1 to December 31, 2016 period.
The latest figures represent a downward trend in the region, with hospitals not having met the 62-day target since 2014.
This time last year the figure was 93.3 per cent for the same October to December period.
Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK, said: “These latest figures show once again a worrying picture for cancer services, with many patients still waiting an unacceptably long time to start cancer treatment.
“Speedy diagnosis and access to treatment is key to improving someone’s chances of survival so it’s absolutely critical we see improvements soon.
“Over a year on from when the Scottish Government announced its new cancer strategy, it’s clear many health boards need to make better progress, and show progress from new investments.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the Scottish Government wanted to do more to ensure targets are met.
She said: “Backed by our five-year £100 million cancer strategy, last December I announced a number of changes to benefit patients and increase access for all cancer patients – particularly focused on urology and colorectal cancer.
“We are also reforming outpatient services, streamlining access to cancer specialists and decreasing the time it takes to get a diagnosis.”
In the report NHS Lothian said urology cancers, such as bladder and kidney and colorectal in particular continued to be challenging areas.
Jacquie Campbell, interim chief officer for acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “Most patients we see start treatment within the target times but we recognise any delay in diagnosis or treatment can be worrying for patients.
“To reduce waiting times and improve services even further, we are implementing an action plan to provide additional clinics and theatre time and redesigning patient pathways, enabling us to swiftly identify and avoid potential delays to treatment.
“We are also tackling delays to urology surgery by tracking patients earlier in their journey, providing extra diagnostic capacity for flexible cystoscopy procedures and introducing more urgent outpatient slots.”
Only five health boards – Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire, Orkney and Shetland – met the 62-day target.
Tory MSP Lothians, Miles Briggs said: “NHS Lothian is performing below the national average and way below the Scottish Government’s 95 per cent national target.”