Health Secretary launches Scotland’s new £6m cancer strategy for children and young people

A new five-year children’s cancer strategy which aims to deliver “world class care” for young patients has been launched.

The blueprint, the first specifically for children and young people, contains 10 priorities for action and is backed by almost £6 million.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said it should provide improved outcomes for children and young people with cancer.

The document, titled Collaborative and Compassionate Cancer Care, promises work towards funding genetic testing, allowing medics to to provide personally targeted treatment.

In addition, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CR-T) therapy, which alters immune cells to help them destroy cancer cells, will be expanded to teenagers and young adults.

Other changes will see funding provided to allow the creation of a dedicated health workforce to care for teenagers and young adults, as well as a single centre of excellence for radiotherapy treatment to improve survival rates among children with cancer.

Every year in Scotland approximately 180 children up to the age of 16, as well as 200 teenagers and young adults up to the age of 25, are diagnosed with cancer.

Over 80% of children diagnosed with cancer before the age of 15 years can expect to be alive more than five years after the diagnosis – and for those aged between 15 and 24 that rises to more than 90%.

But the strategy notes that with around 41 deaths each year “cancer remains the leading cause of disease-related death in children and young people in Scotland” and highlights the “importance of high quality care for those who cannot be cured”.

Launching the strategy at an online event, Mr Yousaf said: “Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy, but receiving one at such a young age is especially difficult.

“We know that diagnosis has come a long way, with survival rates remaining stable for children and young people.

“However there is still more we can do to support this age group to live long, healthy and happy lives.”

He continued: “This strategy, backed by almost £6 million, marks an exciting time for children and young people’s cancer services as the first strategy for this age group.

“It outlines our 10 ambitions to build on previous successes so that, by 2026, we will see improved and enhanced outcomes for patients and ensure equal access to care across Scotland.”

Dr Nicholas Heaney, chairman of the Children and Young People’s Cancer Strategy Oversight Group, said: “This strategy affords the children and young people of Scotland with the opportunity to receive world class cancer care, using precision medicine, close to home for the majority of their care and in national centres of excellence for the most specialised elements of treatment.”

Meanwhile Andrew Murray, chairman of the Managed Service Network for Children and Young People with Cancer, said: “I am delighted to see the launch of Collaborative and Compassionate Cancer Care, after such a challenging period in the NHS Scotland’s history.

“I look forward to working with our clinicians and families to deliver its ambitious objectives over the next five years, improving experiences and outcomes.”

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