More than 100,000 people were waiting for cancer diagnostic tests at the end of 2020, up by 15% from the end of 2019, figures have shown.
Data on waiting times for eight key cancer diagnostic tests was released on Tuesday by Public Health Scotland.
It showed 100,913 patients were waiting to be seen for the eight key tests on December 31, 2020. This number is down slightly from the end of September 2020.
Cancer Research UK said the pandemic had caused a backlog of people waiting to be seen for essential diagnostic tests.
Kirsty Slack, a public affairs manager with the charity, said: “Overall, the pandemic has led to a worrying drop in the number of people being diagnosed with cancer and starting treatment.
“While services are slowly recovering, we remain deeply concerned about the ongoing backlog of people waiting to receive these crucial tests and get a diagnosis.
“Waiting to find out if you have cancer is an anxious time for people, so clearing the backlog is essential.
“The Scottish Government has put forward a plan for recovery of cancer services.
“The plan is welcome but long-standing staff shortages which exist within cancer services must be addressed as a priority to ensure they are fit for the future.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “It is extremely alarming that over 100,000 patients are waiting to be seen to receive these key tests.
“While we all understand the NHS’s focus has been on tackling Covid, the SNP government cannot let these patients be forgotten, and nor ministers try to deflect blame for such a significant backlog in our health service.
“Even prior to the pandemic, the SNP’s record on hitting health targets was dismal.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “To free up capacity during the pandemic we asked NHS boards postpone, where required, non-urgent activity to allow vital NHS staff and resources to be redeployed – allowing them to respond to continuing Covid-19 pressures whilst still maintaining urgent, emergency and trauma care.
“At no point has our NHS been overwhelmed, which is testament to swift action and the extraordinary efforts of everyone involved.
“Cancer services have been, and will remain, a top priority. NHS Scotland remains on an emergency footing where health boards are seeing and treating patients based on their clinical urgency.
“More than 24,500 patients across 14 different specialities have now been seen at the Louisa Jordan, and we have made more than £77 million in funding available to boards to support elective activity, in addition to £7m made available for endoscopy services.”