Every year, around 30,000 people in Scotland are diagnosed with cancer and trends predict that the number is likely to rise to almost 35,000 by 2020. I pay tribute to Macmillan Cancer Support for its tireless efforts in funding research, developing policy and providing support to patients and their families to those affected by cancer.
As you may be aware, health is devolved in Scotland. In 2016 the Scottish Government introduced its cancer strategy: Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action. While I welcomed many of the initiatives included in the strategy, I would like to see better performance on cancer waiting times and improvements in screening and diagnosis.
Statistics reported earlier this year showed almost a fifth of patients with urgent cancer referrals are waiting more than two months for treatment. Cancer is Scotland’s biggest killer and the 62-day waiting time target exists to give people the best chance of survival. It is extremely concerning that it has not been met in the last six years. I have long supported a two-week waiting time for cancer diagnosis to raise survival rates in Scotland. The Scottish Government must set out how it will urgently increase capacity in cancer detection and treatment to deliver the care that people need.
We have a Scottish NHS workforce that is overworked, under pressure, under-resourced and underpaid. I believe we need to invest in our health and care workforce and supported the launch of an NHS Workforce Commission in 2017 to find solutions to the workforce crisis.
I also support the introduction of a radical ten-point prescription plan that would transform our NHS in Scotland and ensure it is there for everyone who needs it. This would include measures such as introducing a meaningful pay increase, a return to collective bargaining and access to vital lifesaving medicines. I believe a plan such as this would deliver more resources, a stronger workforce and take head on the challenges of cancer, mental health and social care, ensuring the NHS in Scotland is fit for the future.