Prioritising cancer services

Framework published to support health boards to treat patients.

New guidance has been published to help NHS Scotland prioritise those most in need of cancer treatment.

Whilst the majority of cancer treatments have been maintained during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Framework for Recovery of Cancer Surgery sets out how health boards should prioritise cancer surgery as NHS Scotland resumes more services following the pandemic.

Surgery will be set out in order of national clinical priority and this guidance will ensure patients who are most in need can be offered the earliest available appointment, which could be outwith their health board. 

A National Cancer Recovery Group chaired by Professor Aileen Keel is being established to provide complete oversight of all cancer services and their prioritisation.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“The postponement or delay of some cancer treatments, knowing the profound impact that would have on so many people, was one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with coronavirus.

“That is why we are acting to ensure the continued prioritisation of cancer as we begin to resume NHS services. We are asking health boards across Scotland to prioritise cancer treatment in the same way and work together to ensure patients are treated as early as is possible within those prioritisations.”

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on cancer treatments as many patients have seen operations postponed and we are very aware of the anxiety this is causing. This national framework provides clear guidance to ensure patients requiring cancer surgery are treated and cared for in order of clinical priority in the same way across NHS Scotland and builds on the initial clinical guidance that has been issued to health boards since the beginning of this pandemic.”

Chair of Scottish Cancer Coalition Claire Donaghy said:

“We very much welcome this action to ensure the prioritisation of cancer through the NHS recovery phase. The National Cancer Recovery Group will be an important voice for cancer. It’s vital that people affected by cancer know that their treatment is a priority in the NHS and that they’ll be treated with the same urgency regardless of where in Scotland they live.”

Head of Services for Macmillan Cancer Support Janice Preston said: 

“Macmillan Cancer Support welcome this framework to restart more cancer surgery across the country as we know how much anxiety has been caused by delays to treatment – it is vital that cancer does not become the forgotten C as we deal with COVID-19 and this is an important step forward.”


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