Scottish hospitals miss cancer waiting time targets

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Scottish hospitals have missed cancer treatment waiting times, official statistics have revealed.

Only 90.2% of patients with an urgent referral for the disease started treatment within the 62-day deadline.

The 31-day target for first treatment after the decision to treat was narrowly missed, with hospitals achieving 94.9%. Both targets are 95%.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the £100m strategy launched in March would lead to improvements in care.

Pointing out that half of patients receive their first treatment within six days, she said: "The figures show that once a decision has been made for a patient to receive treatment, the median wait for this is less than a week.

"However, further improvements need to be made to ensure that everybody in Scotland, no matter where they live or what type of cancer they have, are able to get timely access to cancer diagnostics and treatment."

Some NHS boards across Scotland did hit their targets. Borders, Dumfries & Galloway and Lanarkshire all hit the 62-day standard.

Eleven out of the 15 NHS boards did meet the 31-day target. It was missed by Grampian, Glasgow & Clyde, Lothian and Tayside.

Urological cancer was the only type of the disease where those boards failed to meet the 31-day standard.

Cancer strategy

In the latest figures, performance against targets had worsened in both categories against the same figures for the last quarter.

The 62-day target success rate dropped by 0.6% while the 31-day rate declined by 1.5%.

The new cancer strategy, launched in March, will invest in the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare, as well improving treatment waiting times.

Scottish Labour Health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: "The SNP government are failing to deal with Scotland's biggest killer. We are seeing performance on cancer waiting times going backwards.

Targets explained

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  • 62-Day Standard: 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will wait a maximum of 62 days from referral to first cancer treatment.
  • 31-Day Standard: 95% of all patients will wait no more than 31 days from decision to treat to first cancer treatment.
  • Median wait: Half of patients will have received treatment within this period.

"The anxiety caused by waiting for an appointment can have an impact on the individual, their family and their work. The SNP have failed to meet the 62-day standard for three years now. Every missed statistic is a patient with an anxious family."

Cancer Research UK also criticised the figures. Spokesman Emlyn Samuel said: "It is unacceptable that time and time again these targets aren't met.

"Cancer is still Scotland's most common cause of death. To give patients the best chance of survival it is vital they are diagnosed and treated swiftly. This should be a priority in Scotland's new cancer strategy as we need to see fast progress to address poor waiting times."

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the figures should be seen in the context of longer term improvement.

She said: "It is vital that we treat cancer as quickly as possible and that's why we have set rigorous standards in this area. Under this government, cancer waiting times have improved dramatically and overall cancer death rates have dropped by 11% in the last 10 years."

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