I sympathise profoundly with anyone who has been affected by cancer and I pay tribute to Breast Cancer Care for the vital work it does in providing care, information and support to patients and their families.
I believe we should set an ambition for the NHS across the UK to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe. Key to this will be improving early diagnosis, public awareness and screening programmes, as well as ensuring GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.
Health is a devolved matter in Scotland and in 2016, the Scottish Government introduced its cancer strategy, “Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action”. While I welcome many of the initiatives included in this strategy, I would like to see better performance on cancer waiting times and improvement in screening and diagnosis. I 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 am also concerned that the Scottish Government is currently reviewing cancer waiting times standards in Scotland. I fear this could lead to the abolition of standard cancer waiting times. In the last year, more than 1,700 people suspected of having cancer had to wait longer than the expected treatment standard in Scotland. Cancer should be a national priority but I am very concerned that NHS Scotland continues to miss key cancer waiting times and believe that the Scottish Government is failing patients, families and staff.
At the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to invest in our NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need. It is vital that the NHS be given the funding that is needed so that patients get the world class quality of care they need and staff can deliver the standards which patients expect.
I will continue to press for more to be done in Scotland and across the UK to support earlier diagnosis and to improve treatment and support for people living with breast cancer.