Cancer Patients (Access to Diagnostic Tests)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 17 March 2016.

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Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

5. To ask the First Minister what steps the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that all cancer patients have timely access to diagnostic tests. (S4F-03303)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Our new £100 million cancer strategy was published by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport on Tuesday. It aims to improve prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and after care for those affected by that devastating disease.

Of the funding, £50 million will be used to deliver an additional 2,000 diagnostic scopes a year and to fund additional diagnostic capacity to ensure that people who are suspected of having cancer receive swift access to the diagnostic tests that they urgently need.

I believe that this might be Malcolm Chisholm’s last appearance at First Minister’s question time, unless he has questions planned for me next week. Just in case he has not, if you will allow me, Presiding Officer, I would like to recognise his service not just to this Parliament, but to the national health service.

When Malcolm Chisholm was health minister, among his other achievements, he abolished trusts in Scotland and he brought the Golden Jubilee hospital back into public ownership. Those are landmark achievements. I thank him for his service and take the opportunity to wish him well for the future. [Applause.]

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I thank the First Minister for her very kind words. I was going to say as a preamble that I think that there has been great progress in cancer care during the years of the Scottish Parliament under this and the previous Administration.

Today, I want to highlight Cancer Research UK’s campaign, Scotland vs cancer, and ask whether the First Minister agrees that it has been right to highlight the long waits that some people have for diagnostic tests. I welcome the measures that she referred to and the cancer strategy that was published this week, but will she give us a bit more detail on the timescale for the proposed changes and the effect that she thinks they will have?

The First Minister:

I do agree with Cancer Research UK. Obviously we need to make sure that we have first-class care and treatment of people who are diagnosed with cancer. However, what we need to do most is to make sure that we maximise our efforts to prevent it and to diagnose it as quickly as possible, so that people get access to the best care as quickly as possible. That is why our detect cancer early programme is so vitally important.

Waiting times at all stages of the cancer journey are much shorter than they have been in previous years, but, particularly in relation to diagnosis, we are determined to go further. That is why the actions that I outlined in my earlier answer are so important.

On timescales, this is a cancer strategy that we will start to implement immediately. As well as the additional diagnostic capacity that I spoke about, we will also invest to increase the capacity for radiotherapy treatment. As technology develops, that becomes more and more important in the treatment of cancer.

Whether on prevention, diagnosis or world-class treatment, we have to make sure that we are doing everything possible to continue to reduce deaths from cancer. There can be few things that are more important to any Parliament, anywhere.