NICOLA Sturgeon has been urged to restart cancer services disrupted by Covid-19.

The Scottish Tories called on ministers to publish an NHS Scotland Recovery Plan to show how they planned to restart services, particularly those involving cancer.

In anticipation of a coronavirus crisis in Scottish hospitals, elective surgeries were postponed for three months to free up beds and cancer screening programmes for breast, cervical and bowel cancer as well as some cancer operations were halted indefinitely.

In NHS England, some cancer treatments restarted last month.

The call for a restart in Scotland, which is echoed by cancer charities, coincided with new official figures suggested people still avoiding the NHS despite possible urgent symptoms.

For the week ending May 3, attendances at Scotland’s A&E departments was 40 per cent down on the same week in 2019, with 16,107 people visiting an emergency ward.

The figure has been slowly creeping up since a record low of just over 11,000 at the end of March, but continues to cause concern that serious health problems are being missed. 

Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “It is vital that the Scottish Government brings forward an NHS Recovery Plan to restart our health service, particularly cancer services and operations.

“The A&E figures show that people have been staying away from the NHS meaning many people may be suffering in silence.

“But further delays will mean more patients could have poorer outcomes.

“It is now over two weeks since NHS England restarted cancer treatments, we could too.

 “Thanks to the incredible work from everyone who works in our NHS, our health service has not been overwhelmed during this crisis.

“The Scottish Government must publish a plan to deal with the current backlog of operations and treatments and give everyone access to the healthcare they need before it’s too late.”

Asked about the Tory demand at the daily Scottish Government briefing on coronavirus, the First Minister said work was underway to bring services back to normal.

She said: “We are working on restoring and resuming postponed NHS procedures, that would include the cancer screening services.

“That is work that is underway right now in order to make sure we can do that safely.

“We will give updates on that as soon as we can as part of our overall approach to getting things back to normal.

“Where there are cancer cases where the judgment right now is the risk of going ahead is greater than the risk of postponing, we want to get those who have active symptoms right now back into having their procedures done, and obviously cancer screening, which is screening people who are not necessarily showing symptoms, but going for routine screening, we want to get that back as quickly as possible.”

Commenting on the A&E figures, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said they showed 94.8% of people being treated within the four-hour target thanks to the dedicated workforce.

She said: “Each and every staff member has my very grateful thanks.

“While members of the public are continuing to listen to advice and only going to A&E if illnesses are immediate or life threatening, I want to remind people not to ignore early warning signs of serious conditions.

“If you have new symptoms then it’s vital you get this checked out either by contacting your GP, calling 111 or if symptoms are urgent, by attending A&E.

“We are working closely with health boards and partnerships to ensure robust plans are in place to strengthen capacity and minimise the impact of Covid-19 across the health system.”