Friday, August 17, 2007

SOHC 5: Scottish Cancer patients can wait 220 days

Victims' agony over targets failure
By Natalie Walker
CANCER patients are still waiting up to seven months for treatment.

Patients are supposed to be treated within 62 days of urgent referral.

But figures out yesterday showed only three areas in Scotland were meeting those targets every time.

In the worst cases, sufferers were kept hanging on for 220 days.

The figures, for the first three months of the year, show 85.4 per cent of patients across Scotland were seen within 62 days.

The target set two years ago is 95 per cent.

Yesterday's figures were up six per cent on last year but down slightly on the previous quarter.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon promised to take action.

She said: "It is vital patients get the best treatment, appropriate to their needs, as quickly as possible.

"I have demanded weekly reports on progress from all health boards to ensure they get on track to meet the target."

Orkney, Shetland and Argyll and Clyde, which is part of NHS Highlands, achieved a 100 per cent score for cancer patients being treated with two months. Lanarkshire had the poorest performance, with just 70.3 per cent of patients being seen within the target time.

It also had the longest maximum waiting period of 220 days for some cancers.

The Highland area as a whole fared poorly, with 73.6 per cent of patients being treated on time.

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said: "The figures underline the failure of the Lib-Lab pact to meet its promise and the huge tasks facing the new minority government.

"Nicola Sturgeon must live up to her pledge of meeting the 95 per cent target by the end of this year or she too will be guilty of giving false promise and false hope."

Earlier this year, Sturgeon revealed plans to send troubleshooters to boards with the worst waiting times.

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