Scoring Points From Misery

The Daily Depress up to its usual tricks again, with sensational headlines reporting that the Scottish government’s care of cancer patients is an “utter disgrace” after quarterly target figures for treatment deadlines were not met. The target being that 95% of patients urgently referred when doctors suspect the disease should wait no more than 62 days from referral to their first treatment. A challenging target.

Official government figures show that ‘just’ 87.1% were seen on time in the last quarter, down from 89.8% in the previous quarter.

The Depress also highlighted that a separate government target for 95% of all patients to receive their first cancer treatment within 31 days of a decision that they needed medical help was also missed, with only 94.3% starting treatment within that period. Yes, you read that right, that is 0.7% short of the mark.

A cursory bit of research into the performance on the same sets of targets in the year prior to the current Scottish Government taking office reveals that for the quarter Jan-March 2006 74% of cancer patients were seen within the 62 day period, down from 75% in the previous quarter, for some cancers the figure was as low as 70%.

Now, in the first instance the use of cancer patients as a political tool leaves a lot to be desired. In fact it’s disgraceful. Secondly do the people that write this stuff not think that members of the Scottish Government are human beings with families and friends, all of whom are vulnerable to this horrible disease that impacts so many? Do they actually think Nicola Sturgeon sits up there in Edinburgh drinking tea, wondering what slush fund she’s going to divert funding into that really she should be putting into cancer care?

This sort of stuff, using the most vulnerable in society as pawns, is up there with Gordon Broon’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Scottish children fright night stuff. Contemptible. The phrase used in the piece “The SNP performance on cancer is nothing short of an utter disgrace” is apparently attributed to a ‘furious’ Anas Sarwar (The Tories et al jumped in with the snideys as well). Looking at 2006’s figures I would remind Anas Sarwar that those in glass houses shouldnae really throw stones.

By the way, two health boards, NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire, actually met the 62 day target.

Maybe once Scotland is an independent country the parliamentarians of Holyrood, instead of trying to score points off each other, and in instances like this, delivering blows lower than a snail’s baws, will develop a governing chamber for grown-ups. In a time when there is an unprecedented demand for cancer services across Scotland they might look at the real issues surrounding what is a serious blight for all of us, and come together, taking the view that one party may be in government, yes, but the impact of the challenge they are dealing with on the community is so large that we shouldn’t blast them for not meeting targets, but instead should stand up and say what is it we can do to help you?

We live in hope.

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