Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today written to the Health Secretary to call for the publication of new action plans for each health board, making it clear to patients how and when the cancer treatment target will be met.
The target is meant to ensure 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer don't wait longer than 62 days between their referral and their first treatment. However, it has been five years since it was met and performance is worsening.
The latest figures from ISD Scotland showed the level falling below 87% and just 3 of 14 NHS boards meeting the standard. They also revealed patients waiting up to 275 days for treatment.
Mr Cole-Hamilton commented:
"People will be appalled to learn that under the SNP Government this target for cancer treatment hasn't been met in five years and that performance is actually getting worse.
"The importance of this couldn't be clearer. Early diagnosis and treatment saves lives.
"Having to wait 300 days to receive treatment is not what patients expect or deserve. Long waits cause unnecessary anxiety and pain amongst patients and their loved ones.
"NHS Lanarkshire have already taken a lead in tackling this, reporting when a target is missed and explaining how they will get on top of these targets and ensure that everyone gets the great care they need. Cancer charities have praised this approach and said that it offers much needed peace of mind to know that clear actions are being taken to tackle cancer waiting times in each health board area.
"I'm calling today on the Health Secretary to ensure all health boards are fully transparent in publishing their waiting times data and communicate regularly with each other to share best practice. Action plans should be put in place to make it clearer to patients how and when cancer targets will finally be met. Of course, the SNP Government must also ensure NHS boards are provided with the resources they need to be able to turn this around.
"This would signal to patients that their concerns are being taken seriously and give reassurance that these unconscionable delays are being addressed. "