Scottish Labour has revealed that nearly 45,000 people are waiting more than the six-week standard for vital tests to diagnose conditions such as cancer.

Analysis by the party shows that the number has more than doubled in a year – up by 148 per cent since 2019.

Speaking at last weeks First Minster’s Questions, one year on from the first Covid-19 death in Scotland, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the Scottish Government focus must be on recovery and a catch-up plan for our NHS ‘so that we never again have to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer’.

The new figures come after it emerged that 7,000 fewer people had a confirmed cancer diagnosis in the first eight months of the pandemic.

Mr Sarwar highlighted that the Scottish Government has not met the 62-day cancer waiting time since 2012, and he called for a full restart of cancer services in Scotland.

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader, said: “A year ago saw the first Covid death in Scotland, and the pandemic has had a devastating knock-on impact on our NHS.

“But cancer has not gone away, meaning thousands of Scots don’t know they have cancer and they aren’t receiving treatment.

“We need to fully restart cancer services in Scotland, begin a catch-up programme, and find the missing 7,000 patients.

“Early diagnosis is vital – it is what saves lives, not just for cancer but for other conditions too.

“Covid has placed a huge strain on our NHS and put even more pressure on an already overstretched workforce.

“But Covid didn’t create this problem; it has made a bad situation worse.

Labour MSP James Kelly said: “Scottish Labour is clear that we must not come through Covid just to go back to the old arguments.

"We must turn our focus to the things that unite us, not those that divide us. We must work towards a recovery that has re-building our NHS at it's heart, so that it can be there to properly support people in communities like Blantyre.

"Covid-19 has put an unprecedented strain on our heath service, but the struggle has been much harder as a result of the poor state of our NHS before the pandemic. We can never again leave our health service in a position where it has to choose between fighting a virus, or fighting cancer.


Number of patients on diagnostic waiting lists:

As of the end of December 2020, there were 44,516 people on waiting lists for a key diagnostic test who had already waited over the 6 week waiting time standard. This compares to only 17,906 as of December 2019 – a rise of 148% or almost 2.5 times the 2019 numbers.

7,000 missing cancer patients -

Urgent Cancer Referrals:

The 62-day standard states that 95% of eligible patients should wait a maximum of 62 days from urgent suspicion of cancer referral to first cancer treatment.

There were 3,050 eligible referrals for the 62-day standard, almost no change from the previous quarter, but a decrease of 22.1% from the same period in 2019. The 62-day waiting time target has not been met since the last quarter of 2012.


James Kelly 

for Rutherglen

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