HEALTH boards are to share £10 million to help cut cancer waiting times.

The Scottish Government said the extra funding would speed up the delivery of endoscopy, radiology and chemotherapy by upskilling new stuff, help to create extra clinics, and boost the number of operations available.

The cash is in addition to the £114.5 million National Cancer Plan, and follows on from the £10m allocated to health boards during 2020/21 to support the running of cancer services in the pandemic.

The cash was used to deliver extra healthcare staff, additional weekend clinics and operations, as well as helping to create a brand new Urological Diagnostic Hub in NHS Highland.

READ MORE: Can we really say the NHS is in recovery from Covid when the number of operations has barely changed? 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf announced the new £10m fund while visiting NHS Forth Valley’s Breast Cancer One-Stop Clinic, which was paid for by the previous £10m uplift.

The service provided diagnostics for more than 5,000 additional breast patients from out-with NHS Forth Valley during the pandemic, and continues to see and treat 80-100 new patient referrals each week from the local area.

Although NHS Scotland has continued to meet the 31-day standard - which stipulates that 95 per cent of patients diagnosed with cancer should wait no longer than 31 days to start treatment - delays at the diagnosis stage have seen the 62-day target slip. 

The standard stipulates that 95% of cancer patients should wait no longer than 62 days between being referred for tests and beginning treatment once diagnosed, but this has not been met since 2012 and fell to a record low of 77% in the first quarter of 2022. 

By the end of March this year, over 5000 patients had also been waiting over a year one of the key diagnostic cancer tests such as a colonoscopy, MRI or ultrasound. 

Mr Yousaf said cancer patients were waiting an average of four days to start treatment once a decision is made to treat, but added that “we must to more to improve our 62-day performance".

He said: “Covid has not gone away and pressures remain, which is why we are providing health boards with a £10 million cash boost to drive down waiting times so that cancer patients can receive the best care as early as possible.”

READ MORE: Number of operations on NHS Scotland still down 27 per cent compared to pre-pandemic 

However, Scottish Conservative Shadow Public Health Minister Tess White MSP said the £10m fund would  “will barely touch the sides – such is the scale of the problem".

She added: “The most recent official figures – the worst on record – show that almost a quarter of patients with an urgent suspicion of cancer did not begin treatment within 62 days.

“And this can’t be blamed solely on the pandemic, as it’s almost 10 years since the SNP met their own target of 95% of patients beginning treatment within two months.

“Early detection and treatment of cancer is crucial to patients’ survival chances, so these unacceptable failings are creating a ticking timebomb that will inevitably lead to avoidable deaths.

“Like many of the problems in Scotland’s NHS, this one can be traced back to poor workforce planning by successive SNP Health Secretaries, which has left dedicated frontline staff over-stretched and unable to cope with the demands being placed upon them.”