Early screening for life-threatening conditions such as breast cancer and bowel cancer have been one of the great health innovations of the last 20 years. Screening has helped to save literally thousands of lives across the UK.
It is jaw-dropping, therefore, to read our exclusive story today about the backlog in the number of patients who are due for bowel cancer screening in Lothian.
More than 2000 people who have been identified as being at “high risk” of developing bowel cancer have yet to have a crucial examination. Incredibly, 46 of those patients were due to have the procedure in 2008 and are still waiting.
It is no exaggeration to say that such delays could have cost some patients their lives.
The figures are a scandal and highly embarrassing for NHS Lothian, which over the last year has emerged as a public sector basket case, riven with bullying, mis- management, and fiddling of figures.
Credit, however, must go to new chief executive Tim Davison who is attempting to get to the bottom of the health board’s problems, identifying where action needs to be taken and all the time being open with the public. The short-term result is a myriad of negative headlines; the long-term result will be a much better run NHS Lothian.
The details are also highly embarrassing for the Scottish Government which has run a series of campaigns about the importance of screening. All the while, the health board for Scotland’s capital has been ignoring the guidelines and leaving high-risk individuals on a long list.
Opposition MSPs will be entitled to ask why the government – and former health minister Nicola Sturgeon – did not smell a rat a long time ago?
no-one wanted to end up where we are today with the circumstances surrounding the death of heroic firefighter Ewan Williamson being fought over in court.
It will be a painful process for all concerned – his family, friends and former colleagues – as details of the fateful day are pored over in minute detail.
But it is three years since Ewan lost his life doing his job helping save others – and many unanswered questions remain.
It is important to remember for now that we have only heard one side of the story with the opening statements from the first team of lawyers.
Over the coming days and weeks we should arrive at the truth, which may or may not sound different, and that is the most important thing.