Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Scottish Parliament

Alex Salmond insisted cancer treatment in Scotland was improving during first minister's questions on 6 December 2012.

Both Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson raised the issue of the inability to access certain cancer drugs in Scotland, that were available in England due to the cancer drugs fund there.

Ms Lamont said the first minister had to confront the fact there was a "major problem" with access to cancer drugs in Scotland and that there was not just an inequality between Scotland and England but also within Scotland.

She said the NHS in Scotland spent half the European average investment on cancer drugs and cancer doctors did not wish to work north of the border due to the lack of access to drugs and this was due to the first minister's priorities on spending in the NHS.

The first minister hit back saying the cancer drugs fund in England was "far from perfect" as it had created a postcode lottery and stressed the Routledge review, set up by Health Secretary Alex Neil, would look at ways of improving the situation.

He called for "robust support" of the SMC to continue on a cross party basis.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Scottish government had failed those Scottish patients who had died of cancers who could have had their life extended by cancer drugs available in England.

She said : "Rich people don't need free prescriptions, cancer patients need better treatment. Will the first minister in his review at least reconsider his opposition to a cancer drugs fund".

Mr Salmond hit back pointing out there were drugs approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) which the equivalent body in England, NICE, had not approved.

He said cancer patients in Scotland were getting "better and earlier treatment than they've ever had before".

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford brought up the issue of Remploy factory closures, following the UK government's announcement that a further 875 employees, including 682 disabled workers, were at risk of losing their jobs at Remploy factories.

He said the workers in these factories had been badly let down by the UK government on this matter.

The first minister said the UK government's attitude to Remploy workers spoke "very poorly" of the UK government and Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing would continue to try and find a satisfactory outcome.

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