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by Louise Wilson
28 September 2023
Humza Yousaf defends cancer waiting time record

Humza Yousaf defends cancer waiting time record

The First Minister has come under fire for his government's failure to meet NHS treatment time targets for cancer.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said patients were becoming "so distressed they are having to pay so much money" for treatment privately.

And Labour's Anas Sarwar said that was "no starker indication of failure" than the target being missed for the last 11 years.

While Humza Yousaf acknowledged long waiting times were an "unacceptable state of affairs", he pointed some improvement and investment in the cancer strategy.

Cancer patients should not wait more than 31 days between the decision to treat and beginning that treatment, according to targets set in 2011.

There is also a 62-day target in place covering the time between diagnosis of cancer to starting treatment.

But Ross said one in four patients were not staring their treatment within that 62-day timeframe, with some waiting in excess of 100 days.

He said he'd heard from one woman, Margaret McCall, who had had to spend £27,000 to access private treatment for ovarian cancer due to long waits.

And Sarwar highlighted that no health board on Scotland was currently meeting that target, accusing the government of being "complacent" about "Scotland's biggest killer".

He pointed to a cervical cancer patient having to wait 217 days for treatment, a prostate cancer patients waiting 334 days, and another cancer patients having more than a year - 385 days - before starting treatment.

The First Minister said he has "not become complacent" about tackling the issue, adding there had been an improvement on the number of patients being seen within the 31-day target.

He said his government would "continue to invest" in the health service – including through increased staff pay and early detection services – to help improve waiting times further.

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