THE number of suspected cancer patients waiting too long for treatment has hit a record high, prompting the Health Secretary to admit the service is “simply not good enough” .

New NHS Scotland figures show more than 15% of patients waited longer than the 62-day target for treatment in the second quarter of 2018.

Despite the official target being to see 95% within two months, only 84.6% started their treatment on time, the lowest level since the SNP created the target in 2012.

None of the 10 types of cancer covered met the 62-day standard.

Opposition parties accused the SNP government of mismanagement, and of contributing to delays that reduce people’s odds of survival.

More than three quarters of NHS boards missed the 95% target between April and June, with NHS Shetland the worst, treating just 66.7% within two months.

Only three of 15 boards hit the target - Dumfries and Galloway at 95.3%, Lanarkshire at 96.7% and Western Isles at 100%.

The percentage of women referred from cervical screening starting treatment within the target time fell 20 percentage points to 60% compared to the previous quarter.

Patients referred from the colorectal screening programme hitting the treatment time fell from 73.8% to 63.0% in the same period.

The number of breast cancer patients with a positive screening result who started treatment within the target time also fell, from 94.6% to 90.5%.

However, progress was made on a second target of 31 days between a decision to treat and the first cancer treatment, with 95% target met between April and June 2018.

Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman said: “It's welcome that 95% of patients were treated within the 31 day standard, and that once a decision to treat has been made patients wait on average six days for treatment.

"However, despite an increase of 35.4% of patients being seen within the 62 day referral standard than ten years ago, performance against this target is simply not good enough.

"To help improve this £6.7m has been released to health boards to support access to diagnostics for suspected cancer patients, with an experienced NHS Cancer Manager supporting Boards improve their cancer care.”

Labour said it was “shameful” that the cancer waiting time target had never been hit while Nicola Sturgeon was First Minister.

MSP Anas Sarwar said: “We all know the faster a patient begins cancer treatment the greater chance it gives them to live.

“It is shameful that Scots are failed on this each day in our NHS.

“The key 62 day target has never been met under Nicola Sturgeon’s stewardship since she became First Minister almost four years ago. It’s time for her to stop putting the SNP before the NHS and give patients the care they deserve.”

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said any delay on cancer treatment would undermine the chances of a good outcome for patients.

He said: “It is extremely concerning that over 15% of patients urgently referred due to a suspicion of cancer are having to wait longer than 62 days to be treated.

“While there are some positive indications, the SNP has totally failed to hit this cancer target and the waiting times are now getting longer. This must not continue.

“The SNP has consistently failed to substantially improve this service for cancer patients.

“The SNP has sole responsibility for the health service but after 11 years its mismanagement of our health service continues to fail patients and staff.”

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was “irresponsible and dangerous” to leave cancer patients waiting so long to start treatment, adding to their anxiety.

He said: “Waits for cancer treatment are rock bottom bad. Ministers have a responsibility to properly resource the NHS to turn this around. These horrible diseases touch the lives of families across the country. At such a critical time they can’t be left waiting.”