Colin Smyth has expressed his concerns over clear inequalities in the uptake of bowel cancer screening.
Statistics published last week have shown that, for the two-year period from the 1st of May 2019 to the 30th of April 2021, there was a large percentage point uptake gap between people in the most deprived areas and those in the least deprived areas across all health boards in the south of Scotland.
For NHS Dumfries and Galloway, the figure was 56 per cent for the most deprived, compared to 75.6 per cent in the least deprived areas. For NHS Ayrshire and Arran, the figures were 55.6 per cent, compared to 74.6 per cent.
With cancer remaining Scotland’s biggest killer – and bowel cancer the third most common cancer in Scotland, with around 4,000 Scots being diagnosed every year with the disease – Colin Smyth has warned that clear health inequalities in our screening programmes are putting the most deprived Scots at the greatest threat of late diagnosis.
Colin Smyth is a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which seeks to raise awareness of conditions such as colitis and crohn’s disease. He is concerned that bowel cancer symptoms can often be overlooked, as many overlap with signs of other conditions such as inflammatory or irritable bowel syndrome. Screening can therefore be vital to help spot the cancer as well as being able to identify pre-cancerous signs in both men and women.
Colin Smyth said: “The statistics are clear – the poorest Scots in our region are far less likely to be screened than the wealthiest.
“This will only lead to greater numbers of late diagnoses among the poorest in our society and a greater number of deaths as a result.
“No one’s health should be determined by their socioeconomic status.
“Our NHS was founded to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare.
“If action is not taken now, this inequality will only grow and lives will be lost.
“Health Secretary Humza Yousaf must face up to this dangerous inequality and act now.
“Cancer services have been hit badly during the pandemic but we need to ensure the resources are put in place by Government so we never again have to choose between treating a virus and treating cancer.”