I sympathise profoundly with anybody who has been affected by bowel cancer and I pay tribute to Bowel Cancer UK in its ambition to drive improvements in diagnosis and treatment.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland. Every year, around 3,700 Scots are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 1,500 of those diagnosed pass away from the disease.
As you may be aware, health is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament and I would like to see better performance on cancer waiting times, and improvement in screening and diagnosis. I also believe too little is being done to address the general underlying issues of public health, and health inequalities, both of which are directly linked to cancer.
I was concerned that last year it was found that the 60 per cent target had not been met for bowel cancer screening in Scotland and that uptake was lower in areas of higher deprivation. The Scottish Government should address the appalling connection between deprivation and ill health, and make a concerted effort to improve the uptake in screening.
The Scottish Government have announced the roll-out of a new and easier screening test – the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – to detect symptoms of bowel cancer. The test is being offered to all men and women in Scotland aged 50 to 74, every two years. I hope that this new, easier screening test will help.
I was also concerned by NHS data published in December which showed that more than one in ten cancer patients in Scotland miss the 62-day cancer referral to treatment target. The target for having 95% of patients begin treatment within 31 days of a decision being made on how best to help them was also missed. I hope that the Scottish Government will listen and respond to the concerns raised by Bowel Cancer UK’s campaign.