A report on the Scottish bowel cancer screening programme has revealed serious inequality between the response rate in the most and least deprived areas across health boards in the south of Scotland.
For those invited for screening between May 2020 and April 2022, in Ayrshire and Arran, uptake was 56.5 per cent in the most deprived areas, compared to 76.4 per cent in the least deprived.
In Dumfries and Galloway, the figure was 56.5 per cent in the most deprived areas, compared to 77.5 per cent. NHS Borders saw a difference of 60.7 per cent in the most deprived areas and 78.6 per cent in the least.
Waiting times varied across the south of Scotland, with 28 per cent of people waiting eight weeks or more between screening test referral date to date of colonoscopy performed in Ayrshire and Arran, compared to just 3.1 per cent waiting eight weeks or more in Dumfries and Galloway.
South Scotland MSP 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.
“These screenings are more essential than ever in the aftermath of the pandemic – but waiting times are soaring and health inequalities are growing.
“Humza Yousaf needs to get a grip of the chaos he has let engulf our health service and focus on reaching the poorest communities and tackling these scandalous waiting times.”