Action plan to target waiting times for suspected cancer patients

Waiting times for diagnosing suspected cancer patients are to be targeted in an action plan.

The £6 million Scottish Government investment sets out steps to ensure all new patients will be seen within six weeks for key endoscopic tests.

Those with the most urgent need – including those with suspected cancer – are to be prioritised with an aim to be seen within two to three weeks.

Jeanne Freeman
Scottish Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Being referred for an endoscopy can be a worrying experience, particularly if there is a suspicion of cancer.

“It’s vital to get a diagnosis as quickly as possible, and that’s why we want to do everything we can to speed up the process.

“Our Endoscopy Action Plan will ensure the most urgent suspected cancer patients are prioritised and health boards will be scrutinised to make sure there are no unnecessary waits.

“With new training, technologies and systems this new plan will allow the most urgent cases to be seen even more quickly.”

The plan, which covers a two-year period, will sit alongside the Scottish Government’s £850 million Waiting Times Improvement Plan which was launched last year.

Actions set out to reduce waiting times include additional endoscopy clinics, revised clinical guidelines and more training for nursing staff, as well as piloting new technologies.

Gregor McNie, head of external affairs for Cancer Research UK, said: “Endoscopy services are currently under huge strain, so it’s vital that the plan’s connected funding and actions can support these with urgency.

“We look forward to playing our part in the monitoring and implementation of the plan so patients are seen in good time and that NHS Scotland has the capacity to meet current and future patient need.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon added: “Scottish Labour has campaigned for a two-week waiting time for cancer diagnosis for years, and it is welcome that the Scottish Government is now moving in that direction.

“People need certainty over their condition and treatment as quickly as possible.

“For too long, SNP ministers have been complacent when lives have been at stake, so in the coming days the Health Secretary must set out how her plan will urgently increase capacity in cancer detection and treatment.”

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