Sturgeon’s ‘shameful’ election pledges uncovered– Scotland left waiting for cancer centres

Nicola Sturgeon mocks Labour as she welcomes Anas Sarwar

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The Scottish First Minister pledged to three fast-track cancer diagnosis centres by Summer as part of plans to “keep the NHS safe” if the SNP wins the election in May. But the SNP led Scottish Government only pledged four months ago to create two of the same units by Spring this year, neither of which have been set up.

Outgoing Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said a planned investment of up to £114.5 million will ensure cancer patients “continue to have equitable access to care in NHS Scotland regardless of where they live” on December 9, 2020.

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader, who has pressed the SNP led Government for years to set up the centres, said: “Promises were made to deliver these services: the failure to do that has put lives at risk.

“It is shameful for the SNP to attempt to pledge at an election what they have failed to deliver in Government.

“Experts estimate that 7000 Scots are living with undiagnosed cancer because of the disruption of the pandemic. That is a record of shame and, frankly, Scotland deserves better.”

 

 

Mr Sarwar challenged the Scottish First Minister during BBC Scotland’s leader’s election debate last night, referring to the case of 69-year-old Mary Hudson, whose ovarian cancer returned earlier this year, and said: “Just this week, I spoke to a family of Mary.

“She’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and been told by the NHS in Scotland that due to the backlog of COVID, they are not treating recurring cancers, and would only be treating first-time cancers.”

“Meaning that she will not be getting her treatment in Scotland. She has been forced to travel south in order to get that operation.”

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, added: “It is appalling that Nicola Sturgeon felt it was appropriate to wait until she’s seeking votes to talk up something her SNP Government already promised to do.

“The Scottish Conservatives called for early diagnostic centres urgently in 2019 in order to support cancer patients.

“Time and time again they hear warm words from the First Minister rather than concrete action.

“Now she’s trying to pull the wool over voters eyes weeks out from the election when these centres should have already been up and running to tackle the backlog of referrals.”

It comes as data reveals the number of Scots being referred to hospital when cancer is suspected is still lower than it was pre-COVID.

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Public Health Scotland data for the period October to December 2020 showed there were 3,502 urgent referrals made.

While that is up by 14.9 percent from the previous three-month period, it is still 5.9 percent lower than October to December 2019, when there were 3,720 such referrals.

Cancer referrals fell after coronavirus hit Scotland, with the Scottish Government pausing screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancer as the NHS focused on tackling the virus.

Breast and cervical cancer screening “started to slowly resume” from July 13, Public Health Scotland noted, with bowel cancer screening only returning from October 12.

The health body added that the last three months of 2020 had seen an increase in patients referred after breast and cervical screening.

Of those patients who were referred when cancer was suspected, 86.2 percent started treatment within the target time of 62 days.

That is below the Scottish Government target, which states that 95 percent of people referred urgently should begin receiving care within two months.

 

Only one health board in Scotland met the target, with NHS Tayside starting to treat 97.1 percent of cases within the target time, but this only happened for seven out of 10 (70.2%) of patients in the NHS Highland area.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As we have previously said, patients are at the heart of our Cancer Action Plan and their safety and that of our NHS staff will continue to be our priority.

“Throughout the pandemic NHS Scotland has remained open, continuing to provide emergency and urgent cancer care, as well as maintaining COVID-19 capacity and resilience.”

Responding last night during the BBC election debate, Ms Sturgeon stressed they invested three times more in Scottish healthcare than the £500 million pledged in 2016.

The First Minister added: “We’ve now done over three times that, not including the COVID investment. That’s a sign of the way we were investing, reforming, integrating health and social care to start to bring down waiting times.

“COVID stuck and has had a devastating impact on the ability of our NHS. It has performed magnificently, but to deal with non-Covid cases.

“We are right now working on the plans to bring to bare temporary operating facilities, mobile units, to quickly bring down the backlog.”

 

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