Cancer Waiting Times: Despite massively-increasing demand, NHS Scotland continues to outperform NHS England


You’ll have seen the mainstream media reports of NHS Scotland failing to reach its 95% target of starting treatment for cancer patients within 62 days. Needless to say, most media reports will lack the essential contextual information we need to fully understand the situation. Since the 1990s, cancer incidence for all cancers in the UK has increased by 12%. This is largely due to people living longer. There were around 357 000 new cases of cancer in the UK in 2014, that’s 980 cases diagnosed every day. So, for Scotland alone, that would be around 28 000 new cases in the same year, just one year! Meeting the target against the background of an ever-growing elderly population living long enough to develop a cancer is becoming ever more difficult.

Despite this, NHS Scotland Cancer Waiting Times for April-June 2017 were met in 86.9% of cases and treatment started within the 62-day standard.

In NHS England, Cancer Waiting Times for April and May 2017 (June not available) were met in 82.9% and 81% of cases, respectively, and treatment started in 62 days.

So, the NHS Scotland performance is around 5% better. There were 3 493 referrals in the same period in Scotland so 175 more people were seen in the target time than would have been the case if the NHS Scotland performance had been the same as NHS England.

Now, I know some will say it’s still not good enough. The target is the target and it’s 95% but don’t we have to take some account of the massive challenge being faced here and, on a positive note, remember that regardless of waiting times, cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK?

Footnote: Thanks to Alan Sharpe for alerting me to this story.




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