Recruitment challenges hampering cancer detection

Monday 22nd July 2019

A charity is warning Scotland is still a long way from meeting early cancer diagnosis targets that are shown to improve survival rates.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) tells healthandcare.scot recruitment challenges in the health service are hampering efforts to boost early detection.

Research shows catching cancer early before it has spread boosts survivability and reduces the chance of long-term disability. Scotland and the wider UK lag behind other similar European countries on early detection rates.

Gordon Matheson, CRUK’s public affairs manager, says: “Early diagnosis of cancer and speedy treatment greatly improves a person’s chances of surviving cancer. While we welcome any improvement in rates of early cancer detection, it is clear that Scotland has a long way to go to achieve a world class cancer service.

“Key to this is ensuring that long-standing vacancies are filled among the NHS staff who work in early diagnosis, and that future workforce plans are developed which take account of growing patient need.”  

Figures from 2016 and 2017, the most recent available, show the proportion of patients diagnosed at stage one dipped slightly from the previous year.

With detection rates lower in more deprived communities, Cancer Research UK is calling for a “particular focus” on inequalities.

Mr Matheson said: “It is shocking that someone living in one of Scotland’s poorer communities is far more likely to develop cancer earlier in life, is less likely to have their disease detected at an early stage and is more likely to die of cancer.”

The Scottish Government’s detect cancer early programme aimed to see the number of people diagnosed with three common cancers at stage one grow by a quarter by 2014-2015.

Yet the figures show stage one diagnosis of breast, colorectal and lung cancers have grown by less than a tenth by the last year for which figures are available.