Cancer treatment target times missed for fourth year in a row

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Waiting time targets for cancer treatments in Scotland have been missed for the fourth year in a row.

The most recent figures published showed that 87.1% of patients started treatment within 62 days. The government target is 95%.

Only five out of 14 health boards met that figure.

The Scottish government said it was clear that "more must be done to ensure target times are met".

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Backed by our five-year £100m Cancer Strategy, last December I announced a number of changes to benefit patients and increase access for all cancer patients - particularly focussed 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."

The Macmillan Cancer Support charity described the figures as "unacceptable".

It has called on health boards to explain why the target times have been missed.

The charity has also criticised "discrepancies" in survival chances for those living in deprived communities.

'Crucial review'

Cancer Research UK said the figures showed "a worrying picture for cancer services, with many patients still waiting an unacceptably long time to start cancer treatment".

Spokesman Gregor McNie said: "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.

"With many boards continually missing the target, more consideration must be given into what improvements can be made to help give patients the best possible outcomes. The forthcoming review of these targets will be crucial to this."

The Scottish Conservatives' health spokesman Donald Cameron accused the SNP of letting standards slide, with thousands of patients not receiving the treatment they need, when they need it.

He said: "It's inexcusable for the SNP to just continually brush these missed targets aside, especially when it's well known that receiving swift treatment for cancer can often make all the difference in improving outcomes for these patients.

"The SNP has badly let down patients and it is time they got back to the day job."

Publication of the figures came as the Scottish government announced funding for a cervical cancer screening programme for disadvantaged groups.

The charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has been awarded £180,600 to launch a Glasgow Outreach Service, targeting groups less likely to attend screening appointments.

Shona Robison said: "We know uptake rates for screening are lower among certain communities, particularly more deprived areas.

"We must do everything we can to change this, and ensure that all women access these services in equal numbers, regardless of their background.

"Jo's Glasgow Outreach Service will trial an innovative approach to addressing these issues. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the three-year project."

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