A decision by the Scottish Government to reduce cancer surgery to a fraction of pre-Covid-19 levels will lead to a tsunami of cancer deaths, Jackie Baillie MSP has warned today.

The Scottish Government has stated that health boards will operate at only 60 per cent of their usual capacity with regard to cancer operations for at least the next 24 months.

With over 12,000 patients receiving cancer operations a year in Scotland, this reduction in capacity threatens to jeopardise the survival chances of almost 10,000 Scots over the next two years.

Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer, with more people still dying from it than from Covid-19 during the pandemic.

With over 400,000 cancer screening opportunities missed due to the lockdown, Jackie Baillie MSP is calling on the Scottish Government to act with immediate effect to prevent a tsunami of cancer deaths sweeping the nation.


Jackie Baillie MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh & Lomond said:

“Scotland is facing a tsunami of cancer deaths if SNP Ministers go ahead with their planned cuts to operations.

“SNP Ministers were responsible for a crisis in cancer services long before coronavirus hit and cancer remains the most common cause of death in Scotland, with more people dying from cancer during the pandemic than from Covid-19.

“Nearly 6,000 Scots have died from cancer during the pandemic and almost 400,000 cancer screenings have been cancelled. The plan to cut operations is just completely wrong-headed.

“Ministers must take their responsibilities seriously and ensure that all West Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute cancer patients receive swift diagnoses and treatment to avoid putting lives at risk.”




  1. Clinical guidance stating ‘‘Current estimates are that surgery services will operate in most Health Boards at around 60% of pre-COVID levels for the next 24 months, and perhaps longer if there are further surges in COVID-19 incidence’ https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/advice-and-guidance/2020/06/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-for-the-recovery-of-cancer-surgery/documents/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-for-the-recovery-of-cancer-surgery/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-for-the-recovery-of-cancer-surgery/govscot%3Adocument/Covid%2B-%2BNCTG%2B%2BNCRG%2B-%2BFramework%2Bfor%2BPrioritisation%2Bof%2Bcancer%2Bsurgery%2Bv4.1%2B-%2B03%2BAugust%2B2020.pdf
  2. 248,177 bowel screening participants appointments delayed

46,596 breast screening participants appointments delayed

101,963 cervical screening participants appointments delayed

  1. On average 12,246 patients each year, receive surgery as their first treatment.
    If 60% of patients receive surgery that will be 7,348 patients, meaning 4,898 a year will not.
    So, over a two year period there can be expected a minimum reduction (best case scenario) in surgery affecting 9,796 patients.


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