Colin Smyth
Colin Smyth

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has renewed his call for an urgent plan to step up cancer services, after revealing new figures showing a drop in cancer diagnoses – despite projections of an increase in cancer prevalence.

Public Health Scotland statistics, part of its Covid ‘wider impact’ series, show a drop in cancer diagnoses across South Scotland in the 11 months to November 29 last year, compared to the same period in 2019.

Across the whole of Scotland, the statistics show that there was a 17 per cent drop in cancer diagnoses in the 11 months to November 29 last year, compared to the same period in 2019.

A total of 40,343 cases were detected in 2019, compared to 33,341 over the same period in 2020.

The PHS report states: “That is to say, just over 7,000 fewer patients in Scotland had a pathologically confirmed cancer diagnosis by the end of November 2020 than would have been expected.”

Last week Colin Smyth warned of a cancer care crisis in south Scotland and demanded urgent action to tackle the backlog of cancer care.

The warning came on the back of statistics which showed cancer incidence was on the rise across the south of Scotland even before the pandemic began.

Colin Smyth said: “We know that all the projections show that there will be an increase in the number of people who have cancer, so that should mean a rise in the number of diagnoses.

“But instead there has been a dramatic fall in diagnosis during the pandemic as fewer people come forward and screening services were delayed or put on hold altogether.

“There are hundreds of missing patients in our region and there needs to be an urgent plan to address this crisis, including rapid diagnostic centres and a catch-up plan for screenings by increasing staff and processing capacity to clear the backlog within a year.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on cancer services, but the problems were there before Covid struck.

“Our fantastic and hard-working NHS has been doing everything it can over these past 18 months, in terrible and unprecedented circumstances, but now we need action.

“The next parliament must be fully focused on a national recovery plan for our NHS so that we never again have to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer.”

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