Nearly 11,000 people in Ayrshire and Arran are waiting on cancer diagnostic tests, new figures show.
According to Public Health Scotland, 10,934 patients were waiting to be seen as of December 2021.
That figure represents a 42 per cent increase in numbers over the last two years.
And the national picture shows that over 140,000 patients across Scotland are waiting to be seen for the eight key diagnostic tests, which includes the likes of upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy, CT scans, MRI scans, barium studies and non-obstetric ultrasounds.
South Scotland Conservative MSP, Sharon Dowey, said: “The backlog of key diagnostic tests that has grown during the pandemic in NHS Ayrshire & Arran has now completely spiraled out of control and that is deeply concerning, as this is creating a dangerous bottleneck in the NHS.
“Patients are not being treated anywhere near quickly enough in NHS Ayrshire & Arran and cancers are at real risk of going undetected.
“These delays for diagnostic tests only add to the suffering of patients with underlying health problems. This is completely unacceptable. Early detection plays a key role in any treatment of cancer.”
South Scotland Labor MSP Carol Mochan said: “These are tremendously concerning figures.
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“Cancer treatment waiting times have been declining for quite some time across NHS Ayrshire & Arran with Scottish Government targets repeatedly being missed, a pattern reflected across the country.
“The number of people waiting for treatment at this point is a national emergency. It won’t get any better until the government address staffing levels and do a great deal more to keep talented doctors, nurses and support staff within the NHS.”
Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley SNP MSP, Willie Coffey, said: “The Scottish Government is radically changing cancer diagnosis to improve detection at an earlier stage – which is absolutely crucial for patients and their treatment.
“We are seeing that difference in Ayrshire and Arran as the health board here is one of three to have a fast-track diagnosis centre. This has been open since June and aims to rule out or diagnose cancer within 21 days.
“The Scottish Government has committed £43m through its Detect Cancer Earlier Program and these early diagnostic centers play a crucial role in that.”
Brian Whittle MSP, who is a Conservative politician for the South Scotland region, is also challenging the Scottish Government to get its act together, as it emerged that well over half a million people across Scotland are currently on an NHS waiting list.
In NHS Ayrshire & Arran, the number of people waiting for an outpatient appointment has risen by 85 per cent since the pandemic began in March 2020, although it has fallen very slightly since September 2021.
Mr Whittle said: “Waiting lists this size are completely unacceptable. The Scottish Government needs to be doing more to bring them down.
“The pandemic has put enormous pressure on the NHS but as we hopefully see it finally subsidizing, it’s vital we clear this patient backlog as quickly as possible.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Patients continue to be seen based on their clinical urgency, for example, those referred with an urgent suspicion of cancer continue to be prioritized for key diagnostic tests.
“To specifically support scope based diagnostics we have published an Endoscopy and Urology Diagnostic Recovery and Renewal plan backed by £70 million. The plan focuses on key areas such as: Balancing Demand and Capacity; Workforce Training and Development, Infrastructure and Innovation and Redesign.
“We have also invested £9 million this year to support diagnostic imaging capacity with six mobile MRI scanners and four CT scanners across NHS Scotland.
“Priorities in 2022/23 include an increase in mobile scanners to provide additional capacity, designing and implementing national workforce planning with a focus on recruitment and retention and further allocations of Advancing Practice training places.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.