Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Alarm as cancer waiting times in Grampian among highest in Scotland

One Aberdeen woman said her husband sought private treatment after being told he faced a 20-week wait for skin cancer.

General view of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary from outside.
The new BBC Scotland documentary will focus on junior doctors at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Cancer patients in Grampian face the second worst waits across Scotland for starting treatment within a two month target, according to new figures.

Public Health Scotland revealed that between October and December just over half (54.4%) of cancer patients in the region received their first treatment within the 62 day target.

This follows the point from which an urgent referral is made for suspected cancer.

It is the second highest wait in Scotland, behind Shetland, where only half (50%) of the eight patients referred were seen within the target.

One patient in Grampian waited a maximum of 259 days to begin treatment last year.

Patients forced to go private

The long waits for urgent cases have left some patients feeling they have been left with “no option” but to seek private treatment.

One Aberdeen woman, who wants to remain anonymous, said her 45-year-old husband was told he would be waiting around four weeks after being diagnosed with skin cancer.

But they were later advised in early March they had been “misinformed” and that urgent cases faced a 20-week wait.

Some patients are turning to private healthcare when faced with lengthy NHS waits. Image: Shutterstock.

The couple decided to get private treatment and were glad they did as it was later discovered that he had nodules in his liver and lungs.

The woman said: “We felt there was no other option.

“Having researched it myself, I knew he was in an urgent category of it spreading.

“I do feel it was only because we were private that we got pushed through.”

‘Staff vacancies’

NHS Grampian told Public Health Scotland they have “staff vacancies in multiple areas” as a factor impacting performance.

They added staff annual leave during October and December will have contributed.

The health board has come under well-documented pressures in recent months with ambulances seen queuing up  outside Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. 

NHS Shetland reported they are affected by “staffing and capacity” in NHS Grampian, who they work in partnership with to deliver cancer care to islanders.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said it takes the cancer waiting time standards “very seriously”.

She added: “The latest statistics show the average wait, against the 62 day target, was 57 days, while the average wait against the 31 day target was three days. Both are ahead of the national average.

“Cancer is a complex disease and delays can be due to determining the best type of treatment for the individual.

Ambulances parked outside Aberdeen Royal Infirmary's accident and emergency ward.
Ambulances ‘stacked’ outside Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on February 26. Image: DC Thomson.

“We want to assure everyone in Grampian of our commitment to meeting the standard and starting treatment of cancer as quickly as possible.

“We are facing particular challenges in our diagnostic services, in terms of both staffing and demand. We are working hard to improve the capacity we have available.”

‘Ticking timebomb’

Scottish Conservative candidate for Gordon and Buchan, Harriet Cross, likened the situation to a ticking timebomb.

“It should shame SNP ministers that just over half, 54% of north-east cancer patients started treatment within the target time of two months in the last few months of last year,” she said.

SNP Health Secretary Neil Gray said the NHS remains “under pressure” with more patients on the 62 and 31 day pathways than before the Covid pandemic.

He added: “We’re also treating more patients with cancer on time, within both standards, compared to pre-pandemic and 10 years ago.

Health Secretary Neil Gray. Image: PA.

“Despite this, there will always be instances where some patients wait longer depending on their health, complexity of disease and agreed treatment plan.

“The 31-day standard was narrowly missed this quarter, and the median wait for treatment was just five days.

“Nevertheless, we remain absolutely committed to reducing waiting times and a further £10m of funding has been given in 2023/24 to support this improvement.”