Half of health boards miss bowel cancer waiting times
More than 5500 patients each month wait longer than six weeks for their endoscopy test.
More than half of Scottish healthy boards are missing waiting time targets for bowel cancer tests, figures have shown.
According to Bowel Cancer UK, the waiting times for an endoscopy are among the highest of all the diagnostic tests in Scotland, with more than 5500 patients each month waiting longer than six weeks.
The tests are crucial in detecting bowel cancer, the UK's second deadliest cancer, and the charity is now calling for urgent action to speed up waiting times after it found 57% of health boards were missing the target.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced funding of £14m to ensure that those who have been waiting longer than six weeks for tests that could diagnose bowel cancer are seen as a matter of urgency.
However, Bowel Cancer UK said an action plan outlining how the government intends to drive down waiting times and ensure there are enough NHS staff to carry out the tests has yet to be published.
Claire Donaghy, the charity's Scottish head, 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.
"With the cancer strategy failing to deliver, the Scottish Government must publish their plan of action to tackle the growing endoscopy crisis in Scotland. If ignored, services will continue to struggle to provide timely, high quality care to all and patients will be kept waiting for crucial diagnostic tests."
Health secretary Jeane Freeman responded: "I want to stop anyone from waiting too long for treatment, and that is why I instigated our new £850m Waiting Times Improvement Plan last month.
"The improvement plan's immediate focus is to reduce waits for patients whose treatment is urgent, who have a suspicion of cancer, and those who have waited the longest for an appointment.
"Our aim is that, by spring 2021, performance for outpatients waiting less than 12 weeks will be improved to 95%, and for inpatients and day cases under the treatment time guarantee it will be 100%."