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What the Scottish Cancer Strategy means for breast cancer

After almost a year of public consultation, drafting, feedback and re-drafting, the Scottish cancer 10-year strategy has been published. Read what it means for breast cancer treatment and care

After almost a year of public consultation, drafting, feedback and re-drafting, the Scottish cancer 10-year strategy has been published. The strategy will shape the deliver of cancer care for the next 10 years, with its aim of improving cancer survival and providing excellent, equitably accessible, care.

Breast Cancer Now fed into the development of the plan as part of our membership of the Scottish Cancer Coalition. We also met with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care.

What does the strategy mean for patients with secondary breast cancer?

The Scottish government has agreed to begin collecting national data on secondary cancers, starting with secondary breast cancer. This is good news for all those people living with secondary breast cancer. For the first time we’ll be able to get an accurate picture of the size of the patient population and the details of their care and treatment. Better information will enable government and Health Boards to plan for and implement the services that will meet patients’ needs and to ensure secondary breast cancer patients receive the treatment and support they need.

How is the strategy aiming to improve waiting times?

The Scottish government is committed to investing an additional £30m to support waiting time initiatives. We are concerned that this sum won’t be enough to address the scale of the problem. Currently, only 76% of patients are treated within of 62 days from urgent suspicion of cancer referral to first cancer treatment; the target is 95%.

What will the plan mean for screening?

Over the next 3 years we’ll see the implementation the breast screening modernisation programme. This includes a recommendation to change the call/recall approach to a more person-centred based on calling individual woman (rather than the GP Practice they belong to) based on their Next Test Due Date. We are also pleased to see a commitment to earlier and faster diagnosis of cancers as well as continued support for the Detect Cancer Early programme. We are keen to see how the strategy will encourage more disadvantaged and excluded women to access screening in the future.


Workforce is key to the successful delivery of the strategy, however, we know the breast cancer workforce is overstretched. We welcome the government’s commitment to take forward recommendations from the review of the oncology workforce carried out by the Scottish Cancer Network. However, we do have concerns because the strategy does not address the immediate workforce shortages experienced by cancer services currently. We need to know how the government plans to address the recruitment problems (for example in assistant mammography roles in screening) and how they plan to train and retain key professionals, such as clinical nurse specialists.

What happens next?

We’ll be working to make sure the commitments in the plan are both delivered and developed on, so that breast cancer services in Scotland are fit for the future.

We’ll be calling on you to help us achieve this. So keep an eye out for future opportunities to get involved.

A big thank you to everyone who has shared their experiences as part of the development of the plan. The key commitments to breast cancer we’ve secured in demonstrate the impact you’re actions can have.

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