Plan for quicker cancer diagnosis

Steps to shorten waiting times for patients.


Waiting times for patients with suspected cancer will be targeted in an action plan which will introduce new technologies, additional clinics and additional training for staff.

The revised Endoscopy Action Plan, which is backed by a £6 million investment, sets out steps to ensure all new patients will be seen within six weeks for key endoscopic tests.

And the most urgent patients - including those with suspected cancer - will be prioritised and seen between two to three weeks.

The plan, which covers a two-year period, will sit alongside the Scottish Government’s £850 million Waiting Times Improvement Plan which was launched last year.

Actions set out to reduce waiting times include:

•           Providing additional endoscopy clinics

•           Implementation of revised clinical guidelines

•           Expanded training for nursing staff helping to deliver endoscopies

•           Better processes to ensure urgent cases are referred more quickly

•           Piloting and investing in new technologies such as transnasal endoscopy to examine the stomach, and capsular endoscopy in which a small camera is swallowed by the patient.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Being referred for an endoscopy can be a worrying experience, particularly if there is a suspicion of cancer. It’s vital to get a diagnosis as quickly as possible, and that’s why we want to do everything we can to speed up the process.

“Our Endoscopy Action Plan will ensure the most urgent suspected cancer patients are prioritised and health boards will be scrutinised to make sure there are no unnecessary waits.

“With new training, technologies and systems this new plan will allow the most urgent cases to be seen even more quickly.

“This, together with our Waiting Times Improvement Plan, will aim to reduce the amount of time people will have to wait for these key diagnostic tests.”

Gregor McNie, Head of External Affairs for Cancer Research UK, said,

“We welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s Endoscopy Action Plan which highlights the critical role of endoscopy services in diagnosing cancer early, thereby greatly increasing the chances of effective treatment.

“Endoscopy services are currently under huge strain, so it’s vital that the plan’s connected funding and actions can support these with urgency. We look forward to playing our part in the monitoring and implementation of the plan so patients are seen in good time and that NHS Scotland has the capacity to meet current and future patient need.”

Claire Donaghy, Head of Scotland for Bowel Cancer UK, said:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackle the growing endoscopy crisis in today’s action plan. Demand for these tests in Scotland has been increasing rapidly, and this crisis is further exacerbated due to a lack of workforce capacity which is leading to patients waiting longer and health boards breaching waiting time targets.

“Currently just under half of all patients wait more than the six week standard for tests that can diagnose bowel cancer. We hope that the steps identified in this action plan will allow health boards to establish sustainable endoscopy services and ensure that the most urgent patients receive access to these tests without delay.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the Scottish Government to implement the Endoscopy Action Plan and together we can ensure that every bowel cancer patient in Scotland has the very best opportunity for an early diagnosis.”


Endoscopy Action Plan attached (also under 00:01 Sunday embargo)

The four key endoscopic tests are upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy, colonoscopy and cystoscopy.

Progress against the Endoscopy Action Plan will be closely monitored by the Waiting Times Improvement Plan Operational Programme Board (WTIP OPB). To support the delivery of the actions outlined in this plan, an implementation group will be formed.

Currently all patients referred as urgent suspicion  of cancer are prioritised to be seen within the six week target, with the majority seen in two to three weeks.

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