Scotland's cancer waiting times have improved, but not fast enough
NHS Scotland has released the country’s latest cancer waiting times results from April to June this year.
The findings show that despite some improvements in performance, none of the 14 Health Boards in Scotland managed to achieve the 62 day target for colorectal patients. In fact, a third of bowel cancer patients are still waiting more than the 62 day target to start their treatment from the point they were referred.
This comes after previous warnings that hospitals were reaching breaking point after rolling out the new bowel screening test. The success of the new test has contributed to a spike in referrals for diagnostic tests such as colonoscopies, amid a shortage of trained staff to cope with the increased demand.
Claire Donaghy, Head of Scotland for Bowel Cancer UK, says: “For some time now too many people with symptoms of bowel cancer have waited longer than the 62 day target to start treatment from point of referral. Whilst we have seen a slight improvement in waiting times in today’s figures, they are not improving fast enough despite the investment in the Waiting Times Improvement plan that the Scottish Government published nearly a year ago. In fact, a third of bowel cancer patients are waiting more than 62 days to start treatment.
“We know that once patients are diagnosed with bowel cancer most are starting treatment within the 31 day target, the problem is they’re not being diagnosed quickly enough. This is due to an increase in the number of people being referred for further testing since the introduction of the new easier, more accurate screening test almost two years ago. There isn’t enough capacity in the hospitals, or enough qualified staff to carry out the endoscopy tests that diagnose bowel cancer.
“Bowel Cancer UK is calling for the Scottish Government to carry out the recommendations in the Endoscopy Action Plan to tackle the growing endoscopy crisis in Scotland. Until this is done, services will continue to struggle to provide high quality care and people will wait too long to start lifesaving treatment.”