Health chiefs in Forth Valley have hit back at an MSP’s warning of a “ticking timebomb” of cancer cases due to treatment time delays.
The warning was issued by Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Alexander Stewart following the publication of Public Health Scotland outlining cancer waiting times across Scotland for the three months up to the end of 2021.
The figures reveal that 78.2 per cent of people were treated within the 62 day guideline set out by the Scottish Government for the wait between urgent suspicion of cancer referral to commencing their treatment.
The target for this measure is set at 95 per cent – although no health board in Scotland met the 62-day guideline during the stated period.
In his response, Mr Stewart said the “unnecessary delays” in cancer treatment were also putting cancer patients’ chances of survival in Forth Valley at risk.
However, an NHS Forth Valley spokeswoman defended the record locally, pointing out its strong performance against the 31-day standard – which states that 95 per cent of patients should wait no longer than that from the initial decision to treat their first cancer treatment.
Under that measure, more than 98 per cent of patients in the Forth Valley who were diagnosed with cancer up to December 2021 commenced treatment within 31 days.
The spokeswoman said: “NHS Forth Valley has maintained cancer services, tests and treatment throughout the pandemic, including one stop breast clinics, chemotherapy and surgery for patients who require operations.
“Patients who require more specialist tests and treatment are referred to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Center in Glasgow and we continue to work closely with regional colleagues to improve access for local patients.
“We have also consistently met or exceeded the national target which aims to ensure 95 per cent of patients diagnosed with cancer start treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat.”
Mr Stewart also slammed the record of the Scottish Government over repeated issues with A&E waiting times in Forth Valley, with the latest PHS figures for March showing that 52.7 of patients were seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
The MSP has said the current situation in accident and emergency has put Forth Valley’s wards at “breaking point”.
He added: “These worst-ever A&E waiting times and cancer treatment results across Scotland are utterly disgraceful.
“Our tireless NHS staff are being continually let down at every turn by the lack of action and strategy from the nationalist Health Secretary, who is continuing to rely on his flimsy NHS Recovery Plan even in the face of an ever-deepening crisis in NHS Forth. Valley.
“He has been and continues to be full of excuses but devoid of solutions as to how to get on top of this crisis which is leading to unnecessary excess deaths.”
An NHS Forth Valley spokeswoman said: “Like all hospitals across Scotland, over the last few weeks we have seen a recent sharp rise in the number of patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 as well as high numbers of seriously ill patients who require urgent care and treatment. This is having a significant impact on our bed capacity and ability to move patients within and between our local hospitals.
“As a result, some patients have had to wait for longer periods of time in the Emergency Department until an inpatient bed becomes available. Staff are doing everything possible to reduce delays and all patients with more serious injuries continue to be prioritized. Many patients also undergo tests and start their treatment in the Emergency Department while they are waiting in to be admitted to a ward.”