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Staff shortages in Scotland leading to late cancer diagnoses

More than 18% of patients wait longer than six weeks for a diagnostic test

Progress in improving cancer survival is at risk of being limited by staff shortages, an inquiry into the future of cancer care in Scotland has concluded.

The Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Cancer said the government’s plans to tackle the issue have failed to take a long-term approach and have been insufficiently funded, hindering efforts to ensure more patients survive the disease.

In June 2019, more than 18% patients were waiting for longer than the Scottish Government target of six weeks for a key diagnostic test – more than double the proportion compared to just three years ago.

Cross Party Group co-convener Anas Sarwar MSP said the report must serve as an urgent wake-up call for the Scottish Government.

“Cancer survival is being put at risk because of a chronic staffing shortage in our NHS. This has devastating consequences for patients with cancer and their families and friends,” Sarwar warned.

Every year around 32,200 people in Scotland are diagnosed with the disease. By 2035, it has been estimated that this will rise by around a quarter with more than 40,000 people in Scotland expected to be diagnosed with cancer annually.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said diagnosing cancer early can make all the difference, but there are major shortages in the staff trained to carry out the tests that diagnose cancer.

“Cancer services in Scotland are already struggling. Without urgent action, this will only worsen as demand increases,” she added.

Last month a report by ISD Scotland showed that cancer continues to kill more people in Scotland than any other disease. More than 16,000 people in Scotland died from cancer in 2018.