ONE in 10 Scots with bowel cancer wait more than eight months to start treatment for the disease, according to a study today.

Researchers at Edinburgh University found that 10% of patients in Scotland had waited at least 253 days from first spotting a symptom to undergoing surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

However, that compared to 10% of patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland waiting more than a year, according to the findings published in BMJ Open.

Read more: Record number of patients waiting too long for key tests to diagnose cancer

Delays were down the length of time some patients took to approach their doctor, as well as waiting times for diagnostic tests.

The study compared performance in the four UK nations with similar healthcare systems worldwide.

Patients in Denmark usually waited 27 days respectively to receive a bowel cancer diagnosis. In the UK, patients in Scotland had the shortest average wait of 38 days, compared to 48 in England and more than 60 in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The study comes after the latest figures published by ISD Scotland yesterday [Tue] showed that only 54% of patients in Scotland undergo a colonoscopy within six weeks of referral. The procedure is one of the key tests used to diagnose bowel cancer.

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The figures also reveal a major postcode lottery in how quickly patients are being seen, with 55% of patients in Glasgow waiting more than six weeks for a colonoscopy compared to only 1% of patients in Fife.

Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said: “While there is some good work happening to diagnose cancers earlier in Scotland, to achieve this aim will require more staff.

"In particular, diagnosing bowel cancer relies on trained endoscopists and pathologists and there have long been shortages of these vital health professionals.”

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Claire Donaghy, head of Scotland for Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Demand for these tests has been increasing, particularly since the introduction of the bowel cancer screening programme and recent roll out of the new and more accurate, faecal immunochemical test.

"How this growing demand will be met is a serious challenge for the health service in Scotland.

“It’s crucial that health boards have the endoscopy capacity needed to meet demand and ensure patients are not waiting longer than the six week waiting time standard for key tests that can diagnose bowel cancer.”