Cancer survival hindered by staff shortages

Progress in improving cancer survival is at risk of being limited by staff shortages, an inquiry into the future of cancer care in Scotland has concluded.

Progress in improving cancer survival is at risk of being limited by staff shortages, an inquiry into the future of cancer care in Scotland has concluded.

The Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Cancer reports that government’s plans to tackle this critical issue have failed to take a long-term approach and have been insufficiently funded, hindering efforts to ensure more patients survive the disease.

In June 2019, more than 18% patients were waiting for longer than the Scottish Government target of six weeks for a key diagnostic test – more than double the proportion compared to just three years ago. This is an issue that is set to become more acute due to a growing and ageing population.

The findings were presented at the Scottish Cancer Conference in Glasgow by Cross Party Group (CPG) co-convener Anas Sarwar MSP. He commented: “This report must serve as an urgent wake-up call for the Scottish Government.

“Cancer survival is being put at risk because of a chronic staffing shortage in our NHS. This has devastating consequences for patients with cancer and their families and friends.

“With a growing and ageing population, the time for action is now. We need a long-term workforce plan backed up by sufficient investment and resources to save lives in Scotland.”

Every year around 32,200 people in Scotland are diagnosed with the disease. By 2035, it has been estimated that this will rise by around a quarter with more than 40,000 people in Scotland expected to be diagnosed with cancer annually.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell also addressed the Scottish Cancer Conference in Glasgow. She said: “The findings of this inquiry are deeply concerning. Diagnosing cancer early can make all the difference, but there are major shortages in the staff trained to carry out the tests that diagnose cancer.

“Cancer services in Scotland are already struggling. Without urgent action, this will only worsen as demand increases.

“The Scottish Government must act now and publish a long-term cancer workforce plan – to enable the NHS to do its best by patients today and prepare for rising demand in the future.”