Cancer services in Scotland

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Cancer Research UK wants to see improvements in cancer services throughout the UK. In 2015, we commissioned the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow to explore the ‘state’ of cancer services in Scotland.

The report, ‘An evaluation of priorities to improve cancer outcomes’, shows cancer survival in Scotland has improved over recent years. But outcomes could be better.

Cancer incidence rates in Scotland have increased by 2% over the last decade, and our research suggests services are currently struggling to meet rising demand. Performance against key waiting time targets, for example, indicates services are under stress.

Last year’s Scottish Government cancer strategy, Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action (‘Beating Cancer’), has committed an additional £100m to cancer over the next five years. While this is a welcome development, we would support more oversight reporting on cancer spending within the NHS.

The report makes a number of recommendations to support improvement in cancer services and outcomes in Scotland. These include:

  • The Scottish Government should publish a full implementation plan for delivery of Beating Cancer. This should set out the roles and responsibilities of cancer leadership bodies at national, regional and local levels, clear timings and how success will be measured.
  • The Scottish Government should review capacity – both equipment and workforce – in diagnostic services with a view to providing additional resources to Health Boards to help them meet cancer waiting time guarantees.
  • The Scottish Government’s review of waiting times should ensure cancer targets are defined in a way that optimises their intended impacts – while maintaining the 62 and 31 day standards as a minimum. It should also consider expanding waiting times targets to include all types of cancer.
  • Developing and reporting annually on a national dataset for radiotherapy. This would support ongoing evaluation of how services are addressing inequality of access to modern radiotherapy.

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