Scottish Government plan to tackle endoscopy waiting times

Dec 3, 2021

The Scottish Government have announced their ‘Endoscopy and Urology Diagnostic Recovery and Renewal Plan’, backed by a £70 million investment. The plan will focus on recovering services, supporting faster diagnosis of cancers and improving outcomes for patients.

In particular the plans for endoscopy services include the following:

  • Using innovative new technologies as an alternative to traditional endoscopy,
  • Reducing unnecessary procedures for new patients by introducing a consistent approach to diagnostic testing across Scotland,
  • Introducing a National Endoscopy Training Programme to increase skilled practitioners.

The action plan was released on Tuesday 30 November alongside the latest waiting times and mortality figures. The Scottish quarterly diagnostic waiting times (30 June – 30 September) revealed 34,740 patients were waiting for an endoscopy, an increase of 6% from 30 September 2020 and 68.9% when compared to the 12-month average prior to the pandemic. Of those waiting, 33.9% had been waiting six weeks or less; lower than both the pre-pandemic average of 66.6%.

The latest statistics also show that bowel cancer is still the second biggest cancer killer in Scotland. Mortality rates from colorectal cancer have decreased by 3% over the 10 years to 2020 in Scotland. Mortality decreased in men by 6% but increased in women by 0.7%.

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We welcome this new plan and the £70 million investment to address the urgent and long-standing issues in endoscopy services.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on cancer diagnostic and treatment services. Whilst NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to restore these services, endoscopy was under substantial pressure before the pandemic with far too many patients waiting too long for bowel cancer tests. Yet, with a growing ageing population and the need to increase earlier diagnosis of bowel cancer, the NHS will need to do more colonoscopies so this plan is timely and vital.

“This plan will ensure that endoscopy services are more sustainable in the future by increasing capacity through training more staff and introducing innovative techniques. It will also reduce variation across Scotland which will ultimately improve patient experience. We helped develop this new plan, and will continue to support the Scottish Government and NHS on its delivery so more people can survive their bowel cancer diagnosis in the future.”

Humza Yousaf, Health Secretary, said: “The plan will make a huge difference to people who have been waiting for a diagnosis and treatment for bladder, bowel, stomach and prostate cancers and other conditions associated with that part of the body.

“Over the course of the pandemic some services have been harder to deliver and we recognise that there are areas for improvement. This significant funding shows our commitment to ensuring a timely and safe diagnosis so people have access to the right care in the right place at the right time.”

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