Desperate cancer patients being forced to pay for life-saving surgery in England is ‘not an acceptable state of affairs’, Humza Yousaf has conceded.
The SNP leader and former health secretary was also accused of being ‘complacent’ in light of shocking waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross confronted the First Minister with the case of Margaret McCaul, who was terrified by the three-month wait on Scotland’s NHS for treatment for potentially fatal ovarian cancer.
As revealed in the Scottish Daily Mail, Ms McCaul had to use £27,000 of her life savings to have the surgery in England to remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb and other affected organs and tissue.
The 50-year-old from Newmains, Lanarkshire, warned it was ‘disgusting’ that she and fellow cancer patients were having to resort to such measures just to stay alive.
Margaret McCaul said it was ‘disgusting’ that she and fellow cancer patients were being forced to spend their savings on treatment down south just to stay alive
She said: ‘Cancer doesn’t wait for the NHS to get its act together on waiting lists. Cancer doesn’t care if you can afford to pay.
It kills if left untreated and the Scottish Government is allowing this to happen.
‘We shouldn’t have to go to London or elsewhere to have it done. It was either that or wait 12 weeks.’
Challenged about Ms McCaul’s plight due to the state of the Scottish NHS at First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mr Yousaf said it was an ‘unacceptable ordeal’ and he had ‘sympathy’ for what she had endured.
Responding to the Tory leader, Mr Yousaf said: ‘Margaret is right that nobody should have to feel that their only option is to pay privately to go anywhere outside Scotland for cancer treatment.’
He added: ‘One of the most difficult decisions this Government had to take during that Covid period was to have to pause cancer screening for a number of months; we are still dealing with the impacts of that difficult decision.
‘On ovarian cancer more specifically, let me try to offer some assurance, if I can.
The latest figures show that, in Scotland, 94.7 per cent of women are receiving their first treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat.
‘However, in those situations where that is not happening or, in Margaret’s case, has not happened, I fully accept Douglas Ross’s proposition that that is not an acceptable state of affairs.’
Following their exchange, Mr Ross said: ‘Cancer patients need urgent treatment to save their lives. But in the SNP-run NHS, they wait months.
‘People from the most deprived areas are much more likely to die from cancer already. As waiting times grow, they will only suffer more since they can’t afford to go outwith Scotland.
‘Humza Yousaf is putting lives at risk by failing to reduce lengthy cancer waiting times.’
He added: ‘People are having to spend their life savings so they can go elsewhere for the life-saving treatment they need. Humza Yousaf was health secretary for two years and cancer waiting times grew. How is he going to sort it now he’s First Minister?’
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar condemned Mr Yousaf for ‘complacency’ after NHS figures showed that one in four Scottish patients suspected of having cancer don’t start treatment within the 62-day target.
He said: ‘The First Minister has become complacent in the fight against Scotland’s biggest killer. Life expectancy in Scotland has dropped again, to a level not seen for over ten years.
‘There is no starker indication of failure than that. Humza Yousaf must apologise for this lost decade on the SNP’s watch.’
Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com