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Cancer treatment delays: 'I will not let up the unrelenting pressure on NHS Highland'

By Andrew Dixon

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Kate Forbes has been contacted by patients.
Kate Forbes has been contacted by patients.

A north MSP has vowed to press for a solution for cancer patients facing delays to their treatment.

It emerged last week that dozens of patients had seen their cancer treatment "plunged into chaos" due to an oncologist shortage at NHS Highland.

On Friday, NHS Highland revealed that 78 patients were without a consultant oncologist and can expect “delay and disruption” to their treatment due to this acute workforce crisis.

Updates are expected from the health board this week.

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Kate Forbes has held an urgent meeting with Scotland's health secretary Michael Matheson regarding the situation after cancer patients reached out to her.

"It was brought to my attention that NHS Highland's specialist colorectal oncology consultant has resigned, leaving the post unfilled as NHS Highland has not been able to recruit a replacement for this highly specialised role," she said.

"This affects colorectal cancer patients who are undergoing treatment, and it is clearly unacceptable for cancer patients to be worried about treatment and care during some of the most difficult and gruelling moments of their life.

"Such is the importance and urgency of the situation, the health secretary agreed to meet me within a matter of hours, fully understanding the imperative to find an immediate solution."

She added: "NHS Highland with the input of the health secretary’s team has held discussions with all the other cancer centres in Scotland about providing support to NHS Highland.

"There is now care in place for all new patients, and 15 patients who have been identified as the highest clinical priority.

"There is still support required for the remaining patients, and work is ongoing with other cancer centres about what they can offer to NHS Highland.

"I will not let up the unrelenting pressure on NHS Highland to ensure there is replacement care for all patients. I cannot begin to imagine the worry for patients and family."

Ms Forbes invited patients and their relatives to contact her if they thought she could do anything else.

She has also written to NHS Highland's chief executive Pam Dudek.

Ms Forbes added: "There is a wider question as to why NHS Highland has been unable to fill the post, as succession planning is critical. I have written to the chief executive of NHS Highland to ask how this situation arose and what is being done to fix it.

"I will keep everybody who has written to me informed and I will be unrelenting in demanding that NHS Highland works night and day on behalf of these patients to minimise all disruption to their care."

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