14 May 2019

Only 58 per cent of head and neck cancer patients have access to a speech and language therapist before beginning treatment, new health statistics reveal.

The target is for 90 per cent of cancer patients to be seen by a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) before treatment to assess voice, speech and swallowing.

No NHS board managed to achieve the target in 2017/18, with many citing staff and service demand issues.

Scottish Labour has said the missed targets are an indicator of poor workforce planning by the Scottish Government, and has called for more resources for the NHS.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Monica Lennon said:

“NHS staff do an amazing job, but growing pressures coupled with depleting resources are making it harder to deliver the care that patients need.

“It’s unacceptable that almost half of patients with head and neck cancer are not getting access to a speech and language therapist before beginning treatment.

“The Health Secretary needs to look into this issue, and ensure that swift improvements are made by increasing resources in our NHS to address the workforce crisis.”
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