Breast screening row

Concern over ‘switch to Paisley’ plan as cancer figures fail to meet SNP target

By Bill Heaney

Following the uproar in West Dunbartonshire after Council leader Jonathan McColl flagged up the fact that he would support the transfer of breast cancer screening from Vale of Leven Hospital to the RAH in Paisley, MSP Jackie Baillie has highlighted the fact that the SNP government is still missing its own early cancer detection target.

In 2012, then SNP Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced plans aiming to increase the number of first stage cancer detections by 25 per cent by 2015.

But official figures show there has only been an 8.4 per cent increase – well below the 2015 target.

The statistics also show that people from the most deprived areas are still far more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage than those in more affluent areas.

Jackie Baillie said: “Once again we are seeing the detrimental effect that this SNP government is having on our valued National Health Service.

Cancer sufferer

“These figures are particularly worrying given the recent proposals from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde to remove Breast Cancer care services from the Vale of Leven hospital.

“The statistics clearly show that those from more deprived areas are often diagnosed at a much later stage. It is therefore simply baffling that anyone thinks it is a good idea to remove Breast Cancer services from the Vale, with its large and varied catchment area.

“Breast Cancer patients who look to the Vale for their treatment are being punished for the SNP’s inability to properly support our health workers and to fund our NHS.”

Figures published on Tuesday showed that found the detection of the three cancers at stage one had risen by 8.4 per cent since 2010 and 2011, some way short of the 25 per cent target.

Overall 25.3 per cent of cases of the three most common cancers – breast, lung and colorectal – were diagnosed at stage one in 2016 and 2017.

The figures also revealed differences in rate of diagnosis between patients with the cancers in Scotland’s most and least deprived areas.

For people with breast, colorectal or lung cancer in the most-deprived areas, of which Werst Dunbartonshire is one, 22.6 per cent were diagnosed at the earliest stage, an 11.8 per cent increase from the baseline.

However, the highest proportion of patients from the most-deprived areas were diagnosed at the most advanced stage of the disease, with 30.3 per cent diagnosed at stage four.

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “While the moderate improvement in the number of early cancer detections is of course welcome, these figures show once again that the SNP is failing to deliver on its pledges for patients.

“The persistent inequality in detection is also particularly concerning, especially as cancer survival rates are intrinsically linked to early diagnosis and treatment. It is unacceptable that high proportions of people from the most deprived areas are still more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages.”


Health secretary Jeane Freeman, pictured left, said: “It is encouraging that today’s figures show that more than 25 per cent of all breast, lung and bowel cancers in Scotland are detected at the earliest stage – this equates to more than 6,100 people and is an 8.4 per cent increase from when recording began in 2010-2011.

“However, more needs to be done to increase this further and we are taking action to tackle the variation in early detection rates between our most and least deprived areas.” 

Meanwhile,  Jackie Baillie, has arranged a meeting with the Scottish Health Council to discuss the lack of consultation carried out with local communities by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on their Moving Forward Together programme. In a paper outlining their most recent proposal to remove breast screening services from the Vale of Leven and Inverclyde hospitals, and centralise them at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, the Health Board stated that a ‘robust engagement process’ had been undertaken. As there is little evidence that anyone in our local community has been consulted, Jackie will raise concerns about this lack of engagement with the Scottish Health Council.  The meeting is due to take place on Thursday 9 August.

Jackie Baillie said: “The changes to services which are being implemented by the Health Board will have a direct impact on people in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh and their ability to access services locally.  It is crucial that a robust consultation process is undertaken with local people to ensure that the Health Board know what impact these changes will have.  The most recent proposal to remove breast cancer services is supposed to have been subject to a robust engagement exercise, but I can find little evidence that this is the case. It is important that the board do not ignore the people of this area. We want a say in the shape of our local health services and they must listen.”

Detect Cancer Early Staging 

For people with breast, colorectal or lung cancer, 25.3% were diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage 1). This is an 8.4% increase from the baseline (2010 and 2011 combined). This is below the Local Delivery Plan standard of a 25% increase from the baseline.

For patients diagnosed with breast, colorectal or lung cancer in the most deprived areas of Scotland, the highest proportion were diagnosed at the most advanced stage of disease; stage 4 (30.3%) while for those living in the least deprived areas, the highest proportion were diagnosed at stage 2 (29.5%).




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