ANAS Sarwar has insisted that Scotland’s cancer times backlog is now a “national emergency” - warning that 7,000 people are now thought to be living with an undiagnosed condition.

The Scottish Labour leader has pressed the case for rapid diagnostic centres to be brought forward in a bid to shorten waiting times for those showing symptoms of cancer.

Mr Sarwar highlighted the case of Glasgow grandmother Mary Hudson at Tuesday’s live TV election debate, who has been forced to travel to London for NHS surgery after her ovarian cancer returned.

Ms Hudson’s family claim they were informed that the Glasgow Royal Infirmary was only currently providing operations for first occurrences of cancer.

Her daughter, Julie Goedkoop, said the family “were absolutely determined to ensure mum receives surgery”.

HeraldScotland: Mary Hudson with her daughter Julie GoedkoopMary Hudson with her daughter Julie Goedkoop

She added: “But it’s unbelievable that she has to travel all the way to London for it.

“We are raising her case so that we can help others in the same situation.

“How many women have been told they can’t have an operation and have just said Ok?”

New figures show that over the last three months of 2020, there were 485 people who waited longer than two months to start their cancer treatment, despite being urgently referred.

The Scottish Labour leader has pointed to the SNP still failing to meet the waiting time standard for urgent referrals – an aim it hasn’t met it since 2012.

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It is now believed around 7,000 people in Scotland are living with undiagnosed cancer as a result of the pandemic’s impact on cancer services.

Mr Sarwar’s plan for rapid diagnostic centres would mean that patients with symptoms could receive a diagnosis in days instead of the months currently facing people.

He said: “The backlog for cancer treatment in Scotland is now a national emergency.

“There are thousands of missing patients and there needs to be an urgent plan to address this crisis, including rapid diagnostic centres and a catch-up plan for screenings by increasing staff and processing capacity to clear the backlog within a year.

“It is a scandal that patients like Mary are having to travel hundreds of miles for surgery, and my thoughts are with her and her family.”

HeraldScotland: Scottish Labour leader Anas SarwarScottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

Mr Sarwar warned “we have no idea how many other families are going through similar trauma”.

He added: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on cancer services, but the problems were there before Covid struck.

“The SNP has not met the waiting time standard for urgent referrals for nearly a decade.

“The next parliament must be fully focused on a national recovery plan for our NHS so that we never again have to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer.”

At last night’s debate, Nicola Sturgeon said that five years ago, she committed to investing £500 million into the NHS over the life of the parliament.

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The First Minister said: “We’ve now done over three times that, not including the Covid investment. That’s a sign of the way we were investing, reforming, integrating health and social care to start to bring down waiting times.

“Covid stuck and has had a devastating impact on the ability of our NHS.

“It has performed magnificently, but to deal with non-Covid cases. We are right now working on the plans to bring to bare temporary operating facilities, mobile units, to quickly bring down the backlog.

“Right now we have six permanent elective centres planned and there will be three in operation by the end of May.

“For me, this is not just about plans for an election, this is work that is under way as we speak.”