Early diagnosis can beat cancer sooner, says MSP

SLP Conference 2018

March 14, 2018 – Jackie Baillie MSP met Cancer Research UK staff at the Scottish Labour party conference in Dundee last week, to learn about the charity’s priorities for beating cancer sooner in Scotland. She said later: “Like everywhere in Scotland, cancer has a huge effect on families in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond so it was helpful to meet with the Cancer Research UK team to hear more about their priorities for diagnosing patients sooner in Scotland.  It is shocking that one in five patients in NHS Highland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have to wait over six weeks for key diagnostic tests for cancer. Early diagnosis saves lives so it is vital that the Scottish Government addresses the gaps in the NHS workforce to bring down waiting times and ensure that suspected cancer patients get the tests they need as soon as possible.”

Jackie heard about Cancer Research UK’s latest campaign, which urges the Scottish Government to address shortages in the diagnostic workforce in Scotland.  The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the more likely it is to be treated successfully. For some of the most common types of cancer, survival is more than three times likely higher when the disease is diagnosed at its earliest stages. Yet statistics show that around 16,000 patients in Scotland waited more than the target time of six weeks to receive a diagnostic test in the quarter ending 31 December 2017.*

The report also shows that, during the same quarter, only 79.3% of patients received the tests they needed within six weeks. The target is that no one should be waiting longer than six weeks for a test.  Gregor McNie, Head of External Affairs at Cancer Research UK, said: “These statistics paint a picture of a service struggling to keep up with growing demand. Waiting to find out if you do or don’t have cancer can cause huge anxiety to patients.  Staff shortages are partly to blame and the recent initiative to recruit more radiologists will go some way to alleviate current pressures. But a more urgent plan for all diagnostic staff is also needed. This could include upskilling some workers, introducing flexible contracts to retain consultants considering retirement, as well as offering incentives for skilled staff to work in health board areas where shortages are particularly acute.”

* The statistics reflect the waiting times for all diagnostic services in Scotland, including those that affect cancer patients.  The full ISD Scotland report can be found here:

Diagnostic Test & Investigation 31 Dec 17 (current) 30 Sep 17  

31 Dec 16

Key Diagnostic Tests & Investigations 79.3 81.6  


All Endoscopy 56.9 59.1 73.1
All Radiology 90.6 92.0 91.8

Please be advised that these figures should not be compared between Health Boards, as some of them may have a small number of patients that could lead to variations. 

Health Board Waiting within 6 week Standard (%)
NHS Ayrshire & Arran 64.8
NHS Borders 84.7
NHS Dumfries & Galloway 95.4
NHS Fife 77.2
NHS Forth Valley 99.8
NHS Golden Jubilee National Hospital 100.0
NHS Grampian 83.3
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde 79.2
NHS Highland 80.5
NHS Lanarkshire 97.2
NHS Lothian 68.6
NHS Orkney 100.0
NHS Shetland 99.5
NHS Tayside 78.8
NHS Western Isles 88.0

 For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook


Leave a Reply