South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has tabled a question in the Scottish Parliament, demanding answers as to what action the Scottish Government is taking to end the scandal of Galloway residents still being forced to travel hundreds of miles for cancer investigations and treatment.
These issues have been ongoing for years, with patients from Dumfries and Galloway having to travel to the Edinburgh Cancer Centre for treatment, double the travel time for patients from the west of the region when compared to being treated in Glasgow.
At present NHS Dumfries and Galloway is part of the South East Scotland Cancer network, which is largely covered by the Edinburgh Cancer Centre, rather than the West of Scotland Cancer Network, where most treatment is carried out in Glasgow.
Currently the Glasgow Cancer Centre has little capacity to absorb all patients from Dumfries and Galloway. If Dumfries and Galloway become part of the West of Scotland Cancer Network it would need an increase in capacity in Glasgow or another health board to swap from the West of Scotland Cancer Network to the South.
Last week, members of the Galloway Community Hospital Action Group once again highlighted issues after being contacted by patients who had been told to travel to hospitals in Glasgow and Edinburgh for investigations which could be carried out in local GP surgeries.
Colin Smyth said: “This has been a huge issue for local people for far too long. I have repeatedly urged different Health Secretaries to intervene to spare those needing treatment the long trek to the Edinburgh Cancer Centre, to no avail.
“While the local health board has previously agreed to change where people will receive treatment from Edinburgh to Glasgow, progress has been far too slow and their action has been half hearted. The idea of people now having to travel to the central belt for investigations which could take place locally is also unacceptable.
“I have tabled another parliamentary question asking what action the government has taken up to now and what they intend to do. I will keep raising it in parliament until the matter is resolved.
“I accept that the power to make this change happen isn’t entirely in the hands of the local health board but the time for talking is over. To make the change from Edinburgh to Glasgow for the whole region will require the Scottish Government to intervene and support NHS Dumfries and Galloway. The local NHS will either need one of the Health Boards in the West of Scotland Cancer Network, more than likely Forth valley, to agree to a swap with NHS Dumfries and Galloway, to free up places at the Glasgow Cancer Centre for patients from our region.
“Alternatively, the Government needs to intervene by investing in extra capacity at the Glasgow Cancer Centre to deal with the extra patients from Dumfries and Galloway as a result of this change. Either way the Scottish Government’s intervention will be the key to change.
“As an interim measure NHS Dumfries and Galloway could better promote to patients in Wigtownshire that they are entitled to request to go Glasgow rather than Edinburgh for treatment if they wish as this isn’t always mentioned to patients.
“The Galloway Community Hospital Action Group have been working tirelessly on this issue and this shows just how committed they are to making real changes for people in rural areas.”