A support team to improve waiting times for cancer treatment across Scotland and fresh Government investment has led to shorter waits for patients, new figures released today show.

Falkirk West MSP and Public Health Minister Michael Matheson welcomed the improvement in performance but more work must be done to continue to cut waiting times.

Between April and June this year 96.3 per cent of patients assessed as needing cancer treatment began this within the national standard of 31 days – with the median wait being 7 days.

In the same period, 92.9 per cent of patients referred with a suspicion of cancer began treatment within 62 days – an improvement on 91.5 per cent in the previous quarter.

Mr Matheson said: “I know that the Scottish Government has set a very clear standard for health boards, including Forth Valley that 95 per cent of patients must start cancer treatment within 62 days from first referral on suspicion of cancer and within 31 days from a decision to treat.

“I recognise earlier this year that performance in some health boards was not where is should be and applauded the Health Secretary’s decision to implement a support team to help boards ensure no patient waited unnecessarily for treatment.

“Since March this team have been closely monitoring all health boards’ performance and immediately acting where problems are identified. They have visited Forth Valley and supported them to make the changes needed to reduce waiting times, as well as facilitating a sharing of best practice among the country’s health boards.

“This action, coupled with a £2.5 million investment in June to build diagnostic and treatment capacity across Scotland, is now starting to show real improvements in waiting times. This quarter’s figures indicate we are moving in the right direction towards meeting the 62 day standard in the majority of boards.

“However there is clearly still more work to be done and with an increasing number of people being diagnosed with cancer putting pressure on our NHS, and I will continue to support Forth Valley to help make further improvements.

“The quality of cancer care is something I care deeply about and I understand how difficult it can be for a patient who has been diagnosed with cancer. This is why it’s imperative people get access to treatment as quickly as possible and no-one is left waiting unnecessarily.

“I believe that through this action that the Scottish Government will continue to do everything it can to make sure that all patients and their families get the support they need.”