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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 16:33 GMT
'Best ever' waiting times hailed
X-ray of lungs
The minister said more must be done on cancer waiting times
NHS Scotland has met its target of treating patients within six months of diagnosis, according to figures.

The latest statistics revealed that the health service was also on course to reduce treatment times to 18 weeks by the end of this year.

Health Minister Andy Kerr hailed the quarterly figures as "the best ever".

However, he called for an improvement in cancer waiting times after the NHS failed to meet a target of treating 95% of patients within 62 days.

The health service treated 79% of cancer patients within that time frame, a slight improvement on the previous quarter.

Over the year, 14% more colorectal cancer patients were treated within the 62-day target and lung cancer treatments within the target were up 12%.

However, the Scottish Executive admitted there had only been "a slight improvement" within in the past three months.

By the government's own admission there has been an abject failure to meet its cancer targets
Nanette Milne
Tory health spokesowman

"We must do better on cancer and I am determined that we will," Mr Kerr said.

"That is why we are taking a range of measures including weekly monitoring to better track patient progress through the system and the establishment of a new cancer performance support team to help boards in driving forward improvements."

However, Mr Kerr added: "Today's figures are the best ever and show just how far we have travelled in bringing down waiting times in Scotland.

"The numbers of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for inpatient and day case treatment is at an all-time low - down 65% over the year."

The minister also described new figures on accident and emergency waiting times as "extremely encouraging".

A&E departments were meeting the four-hour target between arrival and admission, transfer or discharge on 90% of occasions, with one-third of departments already above 98%.

Patients must be given the best chance to survive a potentially life-threatening disease and early diagnosis is vita
Shona Robison
SNP health spokeswoman

The Scottish Conservatives said the average wait for an outpatient had increased from 47 weeks in 1999 to 51 weeks in the latest figures.

With inpatients, the median wait had increased from 35 weeks to 46 weeks in the same period.

"This is not good enough," said Nanette Milne, the party's health spokeswoman.

"There have been some improvements but the whole centralising agenda of this executive fails to provide people with the best healthcare possible.

"By the government's own admission there has been an abject failure to meet its cancer targets, 18 months after the deadline.

"We need to devolve power to the health professionals who know best and stop the ridiculous system of centralised targets."

'Fundamental responsibility'

The Scottish National Party claimed the figures showed that 33,951 patients were now on hidden waiting lists and all cancers combined showed that one in 5 patients still fell outside the two-month target.

Shona Robison, the party health spokeswoman, said: "The maximum wait in the first minister's own backyard in Lanarkshire is 265 days for colorectal cancer which is a disgrace.

"Patients must be given the best chance to survive a potentially life-threatening disease and early diagnosis is vital.

"Labour is failing on this fundamental responsibility."


SEE ALSO
NHS misses waiting times target
15 Sep 06 |  Scotland
NHS waiting list reduction hailed
31 Aug 06 |  Scotland
SNP criticises NHS waiting times
13 Apr 06 |  Scotland
NHS fails cancer waiting time aim
07 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Row over hip surgery list times
13 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Bowel cancer goal 'may be missed'
03 Oct 05 |  Scotland

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