By Bill Heaney

Scotland’s cancer treatment crisis must be stopped in its tracks, Scottish Labour has said today, as figures from Cancer Research UK reveal that the number of new cancer cases is predicted to rise by 22 per cent in Scotland by 2040.

This is a marked increase from 34,500 cases in 2019-2021 to over 42,000 cases in 2038-2040, placing added pressure on an already strained system.

Dumbarton MSP and Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Dame Jackie Baillie, above right, has warned of ‘SNP complacency’ in the face of this growing crisis and has warned that lives will be lost unless the SNP take seriously the workforce pressures and delays to diagnosis.

This warning comes just a week after Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar revealed there had been 398 excess cancer deaths this year and spoke of a patient who had waited 385 days for diagnosis and to start treatment.

It also comes in the wake of the SNP’s failed 62 day cancer treatment target, which has not been met since 2012.

Dame Jackie Baillie said: “Scotland’s cancer treatment wait times are a ticking time-bomb and one that must be stopped in its tracks.

“There are already far too many avoidable and unnecessary deaths from cancer each year.

“Scotland’s cancer waiting times have already sky-rocketed and this is only going to get worse unless real steps are taken to address the crisis by the SNP.

“Scottish Labour has called for a proper diagnostic catch-up plan and action to address the workforce pressures but the SNP’s inability to make any headway on this issue is a truly stark indication of failure.

“The SNP must end the complacency or else risk delays spiralling even further and putting more lives on the line.

For the period 2019-2021 and 2038-2040 CRUK projects:

  • The number of new cancer cases (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) is predicted to rise by 22%. This rise is mainly due to the population growing older.
  • The average number of cases per year will increase from over 34,500 cases in 2019-2021 to over 42,000 cases in 2038-2040.
  • Lung, breast and bowel cancer are predicted to continue to be the most common cancers in 2038-2040.
  • While welcome reductions in smoking prevalence have occurred in Scotland, there remains considerable potential to prevent cancers through further reductions in smoking, reducing overweight and obesity, improving diet and reducing alcohol consumption.

LibDem leader Alex Cole Hamilton and Health Secretary Michael Matheson.

Meanwhile, responding to Public Health Scotland figures published today which show that the number of planned operations was lower than pre-pandemic levels, with 7.2% fewer operations planned in August 2023 than were planned in August 2019, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “Michael Matheson cannot deny any longer that his predecessor’s plan has failed. He must tear up the NHS Recovery Plan and start again. It is what patients and staff deserve.

“If he does not, the NHS will face another tough winter which will push it to breaking point.

“A new plan must prioritise the recruitment and retention of staff through a burnout prevention strategy and a staff and social care assembly.”

Top picture: Royal Alexandra Hospital treats cancer patients from West Dunbartonshire.

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