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'You've failed on cancer' Sturgeon under attack as number of patients waiting soars

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That compares to 17,906 in December the previous year, an increase of 148 percent in those waiting more than six weeks for vital checks. Official statistics also show 7,000 fewer people had a confirmed cancer diagnosis in the first eight months of the Covid pandemic. At Holyrood, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar attacked Nicola Sturgeon’s Government for its failure to meet cancer waiting times since 2012.

He said that cancer services needed to be fully restarted while the country slowly exits from lockdown.

Challenging Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions he warned urgent cancer referrals have plummeted by 22 percent.

He said: “There are thousands of people who don’t know or don’t suspect that they have cancer who need to be diagnosed, have their treatment started, and therefore improve their chances of survival.”

The Glasgow Central MSP acknowledged coronavirus had placed a “huge strain” on the NHS and its “overstretched” workforce.

He added: “But Covid-19 didn’t create this problem, it has made a bad situation worse.

“This Government hasn’t made the 62-day cancer waiting time [target] since 2012 – that’s nine years.

“Nicola Sturgeon has failed to meet this target for the entire time she has been First Minister.

“Doesn’t that show that we can’t come through Covid-19 and go back to the old argument?

“Instead, we in this parliament should focus on what unites us as a country, rather than what divides us.

“So, shouldn’t the focus of this parliament be a recovery and a catch-up plan for our NHS so that we never again – never again – have to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer?”

It comes after charity Macmillan warned of 17 a percent drop in diagnoses that equated to thousands of people who may be living with undiagnosed cancers.

Macmillan said these “missing” cancer patients could lead to a rapid rise in people being diagnosed with very advanced cancers, some too late to treat by the time they are caught. 

Lockdown is said to have resulted in a large fall in referrals for the disease as many people avoided going to their GP with possible symptoms.

Disruption to vital appointments, surgeries and treatments are also said to have contributed to the problem.

Ms Sturgeon insisted she understood the concerns about cancer waiting times in Scotland.

The First Minster said: “We have recognised for a long time there is more to do to meet targets and reduce waiting times further.

“Covid has been undoubtedly a serious problem because of the pause in many normal aspects of the NHS that it has necessitated.

“That is why through investment we reformed how treatments are being delivered. We are now focused on getting the NHS back to normal.

“I hope none of us ever have to face the reality that we face over the last year again.

“I think our NHS has coped admirably with that but the focus now is getting the NHS back to the point it is dealing with whatever Covid still throws at us but is recovering and seeing the patients who have had treatments delayed.”



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