Scottish NHS Fails to Hit Cancer Waiting Time Targets

Fears have been raised about the future of GP practices in Scotland.

Ten of the country’s 14 health boards failed to meet the standard for treating patients suspected of having cancer.

This is the latest blow for NHS practice, after similar problems were found previously in England.

Cancer targets had been missed by NHS England, and it is now apparent that the Scottish health service has followed suit.

Except that the situation in Scotland would appear to be slightly worse.

With cancer targets set at 95 per cent of patients receiving their first treatment within 62 days of referral, the aims of the NHS in this area are admittedly stringent.

But the target has not been met by the Scottish NHS since the end of 2012.

Commenting on the seriousness of this issues, Janice Preston, head of Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, reflected that the figures were a blow for combating the killer condition in Scotland.

“We are disappointed. Scotland lags behind the best in Europe for cancer survival rates. We urgently need the Scottish Cancer Plan to be published to start addressing these figures.”

This sentiment was echoed by Colin Graham, chief executive of Cancer Support Scotland, who particularly emphasised the importance of efficiency in treating cancer.

“Every day counts when someone is diagnosed with cancer. A great deal of attention is paid to A&E waiting times and it’s time the same level of attention was given to cancer waiting times. It is hugely disappointing that so many NHS boards are failing to meet the 62-day standard and Health Secretary Shona Robison should be asking them some hard questions.”

Of the regions surveyed by NHS Scotland, NHS Grampian, Highland, Orkney, Shetland, Tayside, Western Isles, Fife, Lothian, Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde all failed to meet the requisite standards.

The picture in Scotland very much echoes the issues experienced south of the border.

With NHS England patently struggling with capacity and resource issues, the situation in Scotland appears to be extremely similar.

Patient numbers have increased by 10 per cent in Scotland between 2005 and 2015, with practices now having an average of 5,736, compared to 5,206 at the start of the period.

The number of over-65s registered with a family doctor has also risen 18 per cent, from 834,000 to 985,000, over the decade.

Addressing the issue in the Scottish parliament, Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume indicated that the NHS simply needs more funding and support.

“Ministers announced millions in extra funding to cut waiting times. But since then, performance has got worse, not better. All the numbers seem to be heading in the wrong direction.”

Despite the failure to meet targets, over the last ten years, the overall age-standardised cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) mortality rate has fallen by 11 per cent in Scotland.

 

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