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Scotland pledges to reduce waits for bowel cancer tests

Early diagnosis significantly boosts chances of survival

The Scottish Government has pledged to cut the number of people waiting for bowel cancer tests by 20% by the end of September 2018.

Health Secretary Shona Robison has committed an additional £6m to help health boards to deliver endoscopies to 2,500 people by September.

She also announced a National Endoscopy Action Plan, with total funding of £14m, to ensure people who have been waiting longer than six weeks are seen as a matter of urgency.

It comes after a poll by the charity Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer found 66% of health boards were in breach of the national waiting time standard of less than 5% of patients waiting longer than six weeks for tests that could diagnose bowel cancer. 

In some health boards like NHS Lothian, more than half of patients (56%) were waiting more than six weeks for a colonoscopy appointment and one in seven patients (70%) were waiting more than six weeks for flexible sigmoidoscopy appointment, as at 31 March 2018. 

Deborah Alsina MBE, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer, said nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if it is detected early, but this drops significantly as the disease progresses.

“It is therefore essential that people gain timely access to endoscopy tests, such as a colonoscopy, so that bowel cancer can be detected quickly or ruled out,” she added.

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