Calls for urgent review of Dumfries and Galloway’s cancer care services

Calls have been made for an urgent review of “a lamentable situation” hitting cancer care services in the region.

Patients are currently enduring an “archaic” situation where they have to travel to Edinburgh for treatment despite closer facilities being available in Glasgow.

MSPs Finlay Carson and Emma Harper both raised the issue at Holyrood this week.

Galloway and West Dumfries Tory MSP Mr Carson said: “We have heard about inequalities and being a rural area also brings challenges with cancer treatment. There is also an importance about having that care network around you when you are receiving treatment.

“This has effects on the budgets of families and also means losing that community around them.

“It is a lamentable situation and I call on you to urgently look at this matter where people are potentially having less good outcomes because of that position they are put in.”

SNP MSP Ms Harper added: “Since my election, I have actively lobbied for a change to current cancer pathway arrangements for the region. The current arrangements – where people often have to travel the 260-mile-round-trip from Stranraer to Edinburgh when Glasgow is closer – is archaic and constituents are asking for change.

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper.
South Scotland MSP Emma Harper.

“Currently – although we are in the South West of Scotland – we are not in the West of Scotland Cancer Network. After continuous campaigning from local residents, elected members and the Galloway Community Hospital Action Group, NHS Dumfries and Galloway agreed to change the current arrangements to have a more flexible approach focused on patient choice in 2019.

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“However, I share my constituents concerns that progress has not been made and that patients are still being expected to travel to Edinburgh, and not offered a choice to attend Glasgow, for radiotherapy and other treatment.

“Longer distances can cause distress, anxiety and can exacerbate negative side-effects of cancer treatment.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government will move “heaven and earth” to restore cancer services across the whole of the country.

Mr Yousaf said: “I have taken on board the comments made by MSPs regarding the full restoration of cancer services as a matter or urgency.

“My door is always open to members to work together to close the cancer care gap that exists.”

NHS Dumfries and Galloway said staffing and equipment issues made offering some services locally “unlikely”.

The arrangement for patients to be treated in Edinburgh is a longstanding one between the health board and NHS Lothian.

A spokesman said any redesign of treatment pathways would require working in partnership with the Scottish Regional Cancer Networks and other boards, making it a lengthy process. It added that all work on realignment of cancer services had been paused due to the pandemic. However, it said free travel was available to patients and stressed that urgent cancer care had continued throughout Covid restrictions.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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