By Lucy Ashton

Waiting times for cancer treatment and the continuing crisis in A&E are putting ‘lives on the line’, Scottish Labour has said today.

Statistics have revealed that between 1st July and 30th September 2021, the target for 95% of urgent referrals with a suspicion of cancer to start treatment within 62 days was missed yet again, with only 83.1% of patients starting treatment within the target time.

Only 76% of urgent cervical cancer referrals began treatment within the 62 days target, dropping to 71.8% for colorectal cancer referrals.

The 62 day target has not been met since the end of 2012.

Statistics also show that only 72.4% of attendances at A&E were seen in four hours with 461 patients spending more than 12 hours waiting in an A&E department during the week ending 5th December.

Labour’s warning comes as statistics from the National Records of Scotland show that the number of deaths recorded in this quarter was 15.3% higher than the average for the five year period 2015-2019.

The number of cancer deaths recorded this quarter rose by 2.9% and the number of deaths from coronary heart disease rose by over 10%.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie, right,  said:   “The NHS remains in a perilous state, and these lengthy waits are putting lives on the line.

“Despite warning after warning from clinicians, Humza Yousaf has failed to take action to tackle spiralling waiting times and the ongoing A&E crisis.

“These are not mere numbers on a spreadsheet – these are the people of Scotland who deserve medical treatment in their time of need.

“The lengthy cancer waiting times will inevitably lead to more lives being lost and will be putting great strain on those currently waiting on treatment.

“The Health Secretary needs to take his fingers out of his ears, listen to staff and patients and act.” 

Cancer waiting times – 1 July to 30 September 2021

The 62-day standard states that 95% of eligible patients should wait a maximum of 62 days from urgent suspicion of cancer referral to first cancer treatment.

In the period from July to September 2021:

  • There were 4,011 eligible referrals for the 62-day standard, an increase of 1.5% from the previous quarter, and 31.6% increase compared with quarter ending 30 September 2020.
  • 83.1% of patients started treatment within the 62-day standard, compared to 84.1% in the previous quarter and 87.3% for quarter ending 30 September 2020.
  • The 62-day standard was not met by any of the NHS Boards.
  • For cervical cancer, only 76% of urgent referrals met the 62-day standard, whilst it stood at 71.8% for colorectal cancer.


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