A MAJOR cancer charity has welcomed extra funding to improve waiting times for Scottish cancer patients, but warned that without ongoing action “the situation may grow much worse before it gets better”.

The Scottish Government this week confirmed an additional £10 million to be shared among health boards to boost the number of cancer operations available, create extra clinics and upskill new staff to speed up the delivery of endoscopy, radiology and chemotherapy treatment. This builds on the Scottish Government’s existing £114.5m National Cancer Plan.

Announcing the new funding while visiting NHS Forth Valley’s Breast Cancer One-Stop Clinic, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf noted that NHS Scotland has consistently met the 31-day standard for starting cancer treatment – one of the two waiting time standards for cancer in Scotland - despite the challenges of the pandemic. However, he said, “we must do more to improve our 62-day performance.”

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Responding to the announcement, Gordon MacLean, strategic partnership manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, told The National: “Additional funding is certainly welcome and needed, but cancer care in Scotland is facing a serious crisis and the scale of the problem should not be underestimated.”

Noting that “more and more” people are facing delays to life-saving cancer treatment and potential late diagnoses, MacLean added: “Ongoing action is needed now for people with cancer in Scotland, or the situation may grow much worse before it gets better.”

Macmillan Cancer Support has called on the Scottish Government to ensure existing promises to support the recovery of clinical cancer services and the wider cancer workforce are delivered, and to develop an effective new strategy to tackle cancer in Scotland for the next decade.

The announcement also prompted criticism from several opposition parties.

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The Scottish LibDems’ Willie Rennie commented that Yousaf’s NHS recovery plan is “in tatters”, saying: "People are waiting far too long for care and I am worried that this funding will not even touch the sides.”

Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister Tess White also commented: “The most recent official figures – the worst on record – show that almost a quarter of patients with an urgent suspicion of cancer did not begin treatment within 62 days.”

White described this as a “ticking timebomb” that will “inevitably” lead to avoidable deaths.