One in five Lothian patients with 'urgent suspicion' of cancer fail to get treatment in target time

A fifth of Lothian patients referred with “urgent suspicion” of cancer failed to start treatment within the Scottish Government’s two-month target, according to latest figures.

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Statistics from Public Health Scotland show that between January and March this year 123 Lothian cancer patients out of 593 had not started treatment, 20.7 per cent of the total.

That is an increase of 5.2 per cent from the previous three months, when 113 out of 730 patients – 15.5 per cent – did not receive treatment on time and 5.5 per cent on the same period last year when it was 83 out of 545 patients.

Across Scotland, the picture is worse, with only 76.9 per cent of patients starting treatment within the target time in the first three months of the year, the worst waiting-time figure on record and well short of the SNP’s target of 95 per cent of patients to begin treatment within two months.

Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber said the new data should be a “source of shame” for SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

She said: “These figures highlight the truly terrifying reality facing Lothian cancer patients. You don’t need to be an expert to know the earlier treatment starts the better the chances of survival become.

“Patients are suffering longer and longer delays on Humza Yousaf’s watch and that should be a source of shame to him.

Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber says cancer waiting ties should be a source of shame to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

“It’s a disgrace that Humza Yousaf’s party would prefer to argue and plot for another divisive independence referendum rather than focusing on saving the lives of cancer patients.

“We must see an urgent plan from the Health Secretary to make sure every Lothian cancer sufferer gets the life-saving treatment they need well within the two-month target.”

Jacquie Campbell, NHS Lothian chief officer of acute services, said: “Urgent cancer care was prioritised throughout the pandemic to help ensure patients were treated as swiftly as possible. Most patients can expect to be diagnosed and begin treatment within two months, but in some cases patients have experienced longer waiting times. We apologise to all of those affected.

“Our teams continue to work hard amid the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also remain committed to reducing waiting times and continuing to pioneer new services and treatments to help diagnose and treat cancer patients across Lothian and South-East Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Protecting cancer patients from the impact of Covid-19 has been a top priority throughout the pandemic – NHS Scotland remains focused on delivering high-quality care in the safest possible way to those who need it most.

“The 31 day standard has been consistently met by NHS Lothian throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with a median wait of five days to treatment from a decision to treat. However, the 62 day standard remains challenging for this quarter with a median wait of 43 days.

“That’s why we’re investing in ways to improve cancer waiting times, including through up-skilling nurses, investing in diagnostic tests focusing on the most challenging pathways to deliver care.”

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