Tories pledge fast-track cancer diagnosis service

The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to introduce fast-track cancer diagnosis to improve waiting times for patients.

The system, based on NHS England’s Rapid Diagnostic and Assessment Centres, would enable GPs and charities to urgently refer patients to triage tests.

A team of clinicians, including nurse specialists, would undertake these tests and potentially provide same-day results, ahead of diagnosis and any relevant treatment.

The party believe this would significantly cut waiting times.

The latest statistics indicate almost one in five cancer sufferers (19.6%) have had to wait over the 62-day target from referral to first treatment.

Figures show waiting times for eight key tests, including those to detect cancer, reveal an increasing trend in the number of patients waiting longer than the six-week target time.

The latest statistics from the end of September showed there were 86,052 patients on the waiting lists for tests such as MRI and CT scans, up 10.6% in a year.

Nine out of 10 patients (90.1%) had tests performed within six weeks in September 2016, down to 78.1% in September 2018.

Early cancer detection rates are also behind target, with the latest figures from July 2018 showing 25.3% of breast, colorectal and lung cancer patients were diagnosed at the earliest stage.

This is up 8.4% on the baseline figure of 2010/11, but the Scottish Government pledged to increase this by 25% by 2015 through the Detect Cancer Early scheme.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Miles Briggs, called on the Government to agree to a fast-track service pilot.

He said: “The SNP Government is failing thousands of cancer patients each year.

“We all know that early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to increase the chances of a good outcome for patients, but currently almost one in five patients are missing crucial cancer waiting times.

“The fact is that patients are waiting too long for diagnosis and too long for treatment.

“Fast track cancer referral would ensure that patients get the cancer treatment they need much faster than currently.”

Miles Briggs MSP
Miles Briggs MSP

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “More people are surviving cancer than ever before, with urgent cancer referrals fast-tracked.

“Cancer death rates have decreased by more than 10% in the last decade, and early detection is crucial to this.”

She said the Detect Cancer Early programme aims at early detection, and six elective treatment centres are being developed costing more than £200 million for diagnosis and speedier treatment for planned surgery.

She added: “We are continuing to tackle variations in early detection rates, committing over £1 million to health boards and third sector organisations since 2016, through our Health Inequalities Fund, to improve screening uptake in groups least likely to participate.

“We are working to beat cancer, investing over £100 million in our strategy as well as an additional £14 million supporting health boards to reduce waiting times.”