Scottish government gives pledge on cancer waiting times

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scotland's new health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to meet targets for cancer treatment by the end of this year, following new figures which show the original targets have not been met.

Official figures released on May 29th reveal that just 84.7 per cent of cancer patients start treatment within two months of urgent GP referral, below the 95 per cent target which should have been met by the end of 2005. Ms Sturgeon admitted that the failure to meet cancer targets was "simply not good enough" and said that there was "much to be done, not least in the area of cancer waiting times". "That is why today I am setting out my clear expectation that the NHS proceeds quickly and effectively to deliver on its cancer waiting time target, with a requirement that it be finally and fully delivered from the end of this year," she insisted. The health secretary acknowledged that patients need access to the best treatment as quickly as possible and revealed that she will be receiving weekly progress reports from health boards to ensure that they are on track to meet her target. Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, said: "It is important that everyone diagnosed with cancer should have access to treatment within the target waiting times irrespective of where they happen to live. "We welcome the Scottish health minister's drive to abolish any inequalities involving the length of time cancer patients must wait before starting treatment." The figures also revealed a significant rise in the number of cases of skin cancer, with both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer increasing. Ms Law said that the increase in skin cancer incidence was of concern. "We know that malignant melanoma is the second most common cancer in the UK among 20 to 39-year-olds and experts have predicted that incidence could treble in the next 30 years unless people change their sunbathing behaviour," she revealed.

"Most skin cancers are preventable and Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign offers simple advice on how to avoid the sun's harmful rays. The most important thing is not to burn and people most at risk of skin cancer are those with fair or red hair, lots of moles or freckles or a family history of the disease. "SunSmart advises people to spend time in the shade at the hottest part of the day, cover up with loose long-sleeved clothing, a hat and sunglasses and to use factor 15 plus sunscreen."