HEALTH: Nicola Sturgeon challenged over two-year wait for cancer patient

By Lucy Ashton

Patients are waiting up to two years to start cancer treatment in Scotland’s NHS, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross revealed evidence from a Freedom of Information response showing that one patient had waited 721 days to start cancer treatment. 

The Scottish Conservative leader also raised concerns from frontline doctors that people in poorer communities could soon receive “second-rate healthcare” in Scotland’s NHS.

Dr Andrew Buist of BMA Scotland said earlier this week: “My real fear is we are at a tipping point and what we are going to see is areas of Scotland that are under-doctored. And that is more likely to happen in areas of higher deprivation, and the care of these patients is going to suffer.”

Douglas Ross, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Cole-Hamilton clashed over health at Holyrood.

Nicola Sturgeon was also challenged over health statistics published this week that showed delayed discharges and accident and emergency waiting times were both at the worst levels on record.

The latest figures revealed that almost two-thirds of patients attending accident and emergency at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital were not seen within the target time.

In just one week, more than 1,000 people at the Queen Elizabeth alone were not treated within four hours. Across Scotland, the number of people waiting beyond the target time was over 9,500.

The number of beds occupied because of delayed discharge is also at its worst-ever level. In the most recent month of data, 1,900 beds every single day were taken up at Scotland’s hospitals by patients who were medically cleared to leave.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said:“Nicola Sturgeon must take action to prevent people waiting hours on end at emergency departments over Christmas.

“Long-term SNP failures are really hurting Scotland’s NHS. If the SNP Government had kept its promise to end delayed discharge, we would have 1,900 more beds in Scotland’s NHS to treat patients right now.

“It’s completely unacceptable that people in poorer communities could receive second-rate healthcare, according to frontline doctors. Nicola Sturgeon must rule that out immediately.

“A&E waiting times are at their worst-ever level, more beds are taken up by delayed discharges than ever before, and doctors are raising fears that some areas of Scotland may end up ‘under-doctored’.

“More must be done to tackle the crisis in Scotland’s NHS. As it stands, people across Scotland are not receiving the healthcare they deserve.

“For cancer patients, the situation can be life or death. Lives are at risk when people are facing appalling waits of up to two years just to start cancer treatment.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s actions are not good enough. Scotland’s NHS needs solutions to this crisis, not just words.”

Later at FMQs,  both Labour leader Anas Sarwar [see details on upcoming report in The Democrat] and Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton pressed the First Minister over mental health support for children.

Labour leader Anas Sarwar and SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

Mr Cole Hamilton revealed that in the past year the number of children for whom the mental health treatment target was missed, has risen from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “When Humza Yousaf launched the NHS Recovery Plan last year, the mental health treatment target was missed for 1 in 5 children. It’s now 1 in 3.

“Young people are battling the long shadow of lockdown and the rising cost of living. Nicola Sturgeon has tried to convince this chamber of progress but £38 million has just been removed from this year’s mental health budget.

“That’s money that could have cut waiting times, trained staff and put more counsellors in schools. But that cut will lead to more delays

“Presiding Officer, you only get one childhood, and waiting month, after month, after month for help can shatter those formative years.

“The NHS Recovery Plan promised the eradication of mental health waiting lists by March. That is barely 100 days away.

“If that target is missed, will the First Minister continue to stand by this beleaguered Health Secretary?”

Top picture: Queen Elizabeth Hospital where the number of people waiting beyond the target time was over 9,500.

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