Performance against cancer waiting time target worsens, figures show

Performance against cancer waiting time target worsens, figures show
Public Health Scotland released new data looking at the period July to September this year.

The NHS has again failed to meet a key waiting times standard for treating cancer patients, with fewer people starting to get help within two months of their initial referral.

Ministers have set the target of having 95% of patients begin treatment within 62 days of being referred for help because cancer is suspected.

But in the period July to September 2021 only 83.1% began their treatment in this timeframe – down from 84.1% in the previous three months and below the 87.3% that was achieved in July to September 2020.

None of Scotland’s health boards met the goal of starting to treat patients within two months of referral – and nor was this target achieved for any cancer types.

The latest figures from Public Health Scotland showed that in NHS Orkney only two out of five (40%) of patients referred with an urgent suspicion of cancer began treatment within two months, the lowest rate in Scotland.

And less than three quarters (71.8%) of those suspected of having bowel cancer began treatment within two days, compared to 76% of those with cervical cancer, 91.5% of those with lung cancer and 92.7% of those with breast cancer.

It comes as the number of people being referred to help increased by almost a third from the same time last year.

There were 4,011 people referred for help in the period July to September – 31.6% more than the same period last year, after cancer screening programmes were paused in Scotland at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest figures showed just over half (50.3%) of those referred for treatment from the bowel cancer screening programme began getting help within two months in July to September.

This compares to 68.4% of patients who were referred after cervical screening, and 94.5% of those referred after breast screening.

However the NHS as a whole did meet the target of having 95% of patients start treatment once a decision had been made on how best to deal with their cancer.

This was achieved for 96.7% of cancer patients in July to September, the figures showed – although this was down from 98.1% of patients in the previous three months and 98.4% of patients in the same period in 2020.

All health boards met this 31-day standard, apart from NHS Grampian, where 94.6% of patients began getting treatment in this time, the data showed.

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