Beating bowel cancer together

Scottish Government announces new action plan for cancer services

Wednesday 9 December 2020

The Scottish Government has announced it will invest up to £114.5 million for cancer patients, to ensure they have equal access to care regardless of where they live in the country.

The Cancer Recovery Plan will help to improve patients’ experience of care, and roll-out innovative treatments to improve cancer services.

A total of 68 actions will be driven forward across five themes to both redesign cancer services and increase NHS Scotland’s overall resilience to any future rises in coronavirus cases.

The actions are all due to be rolled out before March 2023 and include:

  • Support the creation of an Endoscopy Renewal Plan: To ensure patients have timely access to key diagnostic tests, the Scottish Government will support the creation of an Endoscopy Renewal Plan. Capacity for diagnostic testing – including colonoscopy, a procedure which can diagnose bowel cancer – will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels for some time as a result of social distancing and enhanced PPE requirements.
  • Invest up to £3 million into Scotland’s first Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres: The centres will create a fast-track pathway for those with suspected cancer symptoms. It will help patients with non-specific serious symptoms (i.e. weight loss, fatigue, nausea), to be assessed and tested by a team of specialists during one visit.
  • Monitor surveillance and follow up services: For some patients with specific gene mutations, or a higher risk of developing cancer, ongoing surveillance can help early detection. The plan places an emphasis on surveillance and follow up services, providing national guidance on these as required.
  • Invest up to £1.15 million into cancer prehabilitation: Cancer prehabilitation helps a patient prepare as best they can for treatment, focussing on physical activity, mental health support, nutrition, smoking cessation, and alcohol reduction to prepare people for their cancer treatment. The Scottish Government will invest up to £1.15 million to implement a programme of work in a number of cancer types, to test and evaluate the concept for delivery across Scotland.
  • Develop a digital resource about cancer prehabilitation: Some evidence suggests that prehabilitation will improve a patient’s ability to receive appropriate treatment and improve their outcomes after treatment. The Scottish Government will develop a digital resource to raise awareness of the benefits of prehabilitation among the public and professionals.
  • Bring together a nutritional care for cancer advisory group: Nutritional care is a key component of prehabilitation. The Scottish Government will put together a nutritional care for cancer advisory group to develop a framework for nutritional care to be used across cancer prehabilitation in Scotland.

Claire Donaghy, Head of External Affairs for the Devolved Nations at Bowel Cancer UK, says: "We welcome this much-needed funding for new treatments and improving care for people with cancer in Scotland.

"Bowel cancer patients have been affected at all stages of the diagnostic and treatment pathway due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While health boards across the country had made significant improvements to the waiting time target for endoscopies – procedures which can diagnose bowel cancer – Covid-19 has led to a reversal of this trend. We’re now, once again, tackling an endoscopy crisis, with more than 10,000 people in Scotland waiting for these tests in September, more than triple the amount this time last year.

"Bowel cancer is Scotland’s second biggest cancer killer, however it shouldn’t be because it’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. We know NHS Scotland continues to face unprecedented pressure, but we hope this investment will improve cancer services and patient outcomes, and help to save lives."


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