Harper Highlights D&G Cancer Inequalities At Holyrood

In a debate to mark World Cancer Day 2022, South Scotland MSP Emma Harper focused on the inequity of cancer care for persons in Dumfries and Galloway.

This year’s theme was ‘Close the Care Gap’, which promoted equality in cancer care across the globe and Ms Harper focused on the specific local issues. In particular, Ms Harper highlighted that many persons in Dumfries & Galloway with a cancer diagnosis are often required to travel to Edinburgh for parts of their cancer treatment – such as radiotherapy and specialist services – instead of making the shorter journey to Glasgow.

While commending some of the work which has been undertaken by the Scottish Government to improve cancer care outcomes – such as the establishment of a fast track cancer diagnostic center at DGRI – The South Scotland MSP highlighted that changes were still needed to the treatment experience for people living with cancer across our region. Longer distances can cause distress, anxiety and can exacerbate negative side-effects of cancer treatment.

Since her election to Holyrood in 2016, Ms Harper has actively lobbied for changes to cancer pathway arrangements. In particular, the South Scotland MSP has called for NHSD&G to be aligned with the West of Scotland Cancer Network (WOSCN) instead of the South East Cancer Network (SCAN). This would mean that the default place for certain treatments for patients across Stranraer, Wigtownshire and the Machars would be Glasgow and not Edinburgh.

However, Ms Harper has also maintained that patients should ultimately have a choice and, for example, if it is more suitable for family or personal reasons for a person to receive treatment in Edinburgh, then this should still happen.

In Dumfries and Galloway, 1,135 people currently live with cancer and there are around 530 people who lose their lives to cancer each year.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“Since my election, I have actively lobbied for a change to current cancer pathway arrangements for the region. The current arrangements – where people often have to travel the 260-mile-round-trip from Stranraer to Edinburgh when Glasgow is closer, is archaic and constituents are asking for change.
“Currently – although we are in the South West of Scotland – we are not in the West of Scotland Cancer Network. After continuous campaigning from local residents, elected members and the Galloway Community Hospital Action Group, NHSD&G agreed to change the current arrangements to have a more flexible approach focused on patient choice in 2019. However, I share my constituents concerns that progress has not been made and that patients are still being expected to travel to Edinburgh, and not offered a choice to attend Glasgow, for radiotherapy and other treatment.
“During the debate, I highlighted that the former Health Secretary stated that cancer pathway arrangements across our region would be altered and that the current Health Secretary told me that our situation would be addressed through the Scottish Government’s Modernising Patient Pathway Programme, but that I have been unable to receive a response from the team. I asked the Cabinet Secretary to be provided with an urgent update on our D&G cancer pathways and for the Cabinet Secretary to impress on NHS D&G the importance of our cancer pathways being addressed immediately – so that patients have a choice and are not required to travel further than is necessary for treatment. Longer distances can cause distress, anxiety and can exacerbate negative side-effects of cancer treatment.
“I will keep following up on this issue and look forward to receiving a timely response from the Scottish Government.”

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