The rocketing number of Scots being urgently referred for cancer treatment is further proof that Scotland’s NHS is not working for those who need it most.

It suggests the system is overstretched and patients are being seen by specialists far later than they should be.

Like so many other parts of our health service, comparing and contrasting the referral figures from before the
coronavirus pandemic and the present day is an eye-opening exercise.

Outpatient referrals marked by doctors as “urgent, suspicion of cancer” have jumped from 96,000 in 2018-19 to 171,000 in 2022-23.

The official target is for 95 per cent of patients to start receiving treatment within 62 days if they have been referred with an urgent suspicion of cancer.

But the performance slumped to 69.4 per cent of patients in the first three months of 2023, down from 71.7 per cent.

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying for patients and their families but the agony is compounded by an unacceptably long wait for treatment.

No one underestimates the devastating impact coronavirus had on our health service but it can no longer be used to justify deteriorating standards.

The cracks in the NHS were already appearing in 2019 and remedial work is required before they grow even wider.

Cancer treatment waiting times must be brought down and fast. Too many people risk losing their lives if action isn’t take now.

Homeless crisis

It’s tragic that rough sleeping has become a major problem again after it was virtually eradicated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts have warned that for the first time in 13 years the number of homeless young people is rising.

Young people aged 16 to 25 account for 10 per cent of Scotland’s population but make up a quarter of homelessness applications.

In today’s Daily Record, homeless worker Shea Moran claims that the rough sleeping situation is now worse than before the Covid crisis.

The issue is complex and individual circumstances vary. But the biggest cause is the housing crisis gripping large parts of the country.

A lack of affordable rented homes – both in the private and social housing sector – means there is simply nowhere for young people to go.

The appalling statistics saw City of Edinburgh Council this month declare a housing emergency, with demands being made to the Scottish Government for more cash to urgently buy and build more homes.

The urgent need to build more affordable housing has never been more pressing.

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