Scots lung cancer care under fire

A charity which has described survival rates in Scotland for lung cancer as “unacceptable” has called on the government to improve patient care.

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s latest “report card” on services claimed Scotland had not improved in six out of eight categories since 2007.

Scotland has one of the lowest survival rates in Europe for lung cancer.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said cancer was a top clinical priority and smoking rates were being addressed.

However, Rosemary Gillespie, of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said its report card showed lung cancer was “low on the government’s agenda”.

“It is vital that the government now prioritises improving all aspects of lung cancer services and makes a stronger commitment to patients,” she said.

She added that five year survival rates for the disease were “completely unacceptable”.

Rates of the disease in Scotland are among the highest in the world.

According to government figures, lung cancer is Scotland’s largest cancer killer with about 4,500 new cases of the disease diagnosed every year. In 2007, there were 4,115 deaths from the disease.

Research has suggested 8.2% of patients were alive after five years compared with Iceland’s survival rate of 16.8%.

The rate is 8.4% in England, according to a 2007 study by Eurocare 4 – an Italian research project on the survival of European cancer patients.

‘Meeting targets’

The foundation’s report card assessed patient care, with grades awarded across eight categories, including equality of care and specialist nurses.

The study suggested that services had mainly remained the same since 2007, but had improved in one category, and worsened in another.

The research was based on data from the National Lung Cancer Audit.

Ms Sturgeon said the government was on track to meet a longstanding target of a 20% reduction in mortality rates from cancer in the under 75s by 2010.

She added: “Last year we published Better Cancer Care which is designed to improve all cancer patients’ experience of care – including those with lung cancer.

“The plan will make a difference to all aspects of cancer care, including prevention, diagnosis, referral, treatment and support.”

The government’s work to reduce smoking rates includes the ban on smoking in public places, raising the age for buying cigarettes to 18, and a bill to ban tobacco displays and cigarette vending machines.