Cancer patients may wait too long for follow-up treatment

2 April 2013

The Scottish Labour Party claims cancer patients are waiting too long for post-op follow-up treatments. Although the Scottish government data suggests only two per cent of cancer patients wait longer than a month for their first follow-up treatment, four weeks without treatment is enough for tumours to spread and become life-threatening.

The Coalition Government released a guideline for cancer treatment times last year, highlighting waiting times as an important issue for the NHS. The Government’s document ‘Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer’ sets the standard waiting period for initial treatment following cancer diagnosis at 31 days. In England, this deadline applies to secondary treatment as well.

Scotland’s health secretary Alex Neil said secondary treatment is not subject to deadlines as it is far more reliant on the patients’ cooperation and physical ability to withstand further care.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie argues “extraordinarily long waits” are becoming a serious problem for cancer patients awaiting follow-up treatment. She reported being contacted by a number of constituents with this critical problem.

Mr Neil warned against setting a target for secondary cancer treatment, as more attention should be focused on making “the right clinical decision in every case” instead.

Ms Baillie encouraged the cabinet secretary to assess clinicians’ priorities on the matter and ensure treatment centres are fully resourced to minimise waiting times and avoid putting cancer sufferers’ lives at risk.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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