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Health / NHS Shetland defends islands’ cancer treatment waiting times

THE SCOTTISH Tories have today (Thursday) hit out at first minister Nicola Sturgeon after some “truly appalling” cancer waiting times for NHS Shetland came to light as part of a freedom of information request.

One patient has had to wait nearly two years to begin cancer treatment. A patient with prostate cancer has had to wait 533 days to start treatment, while another patient suffering from breast cancer had to wait over 200 days.

Douglas Ross MP Leader of Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

The figures were highlighted during first minister’s questions by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

“The figures uncovered by the Scottish Conservatives are utterly scandalous and point to total mismanagement of cancer services in our NHS under the SNP,” he said.

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston added: “Lives are literally on the line here but we fail to see Nicola Sturgeon act with any urgency to explain how these unacceptable waiting times will be tackled.

“There is a ticking time bomb when it comes to cancer cases under the SNP and the impact is being felt to a devastating effect in Shetland.”

In response, the first minister said that she was “willing to look at particular cases” but also defended her government’s record.

But NHS Shetland said the figures quoted by the Tories needed to be “interpreted with caution” as they do not tell the full story.

NHS Shetland director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan,

Director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said: “The data shows the maximum period that a patient waited from referral to treatment as an unadjusted waiting time which includes patients who were referred urgently and patients who were referred routinely, which will affect the overall waiting time.

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“The unadjusted waiting time for each patient is unique to them, in that the overall time taken between referral and treatment commencing can include factors such as patient choice and the patient’s fitness for treatment at each stage in their cancer pathway.

“The waiting time will for some patients include periods of time where they need other tests and treatments before for example, having an operation which is part of their cancer treatment.

“Shetland patients who require complex diagnostic tests and/or specialist treatment receive that treatment in Aberdeen and these patients are more likely to have longer cancer waiting times because there are workforce gaps in cancer care in specialist centres which also affect the North of Scotland.

“In the most recent quarter of 2022, the maximum wait for Shetland patients to receive treatment (adjusted) was 103 days and 83 per cent of patients were treated within the 62 day target.”

The first table below shows the maximum waiting times as released to the Conservatives as part of a freedom of information request. The second table shows the adjusted waiting time released by NHS Shetland this afternoon.

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