New ISD figures, released today, show that access to specialist speech and language therapists, one of the key performance indicators for Head and Neck Cancer, is not being met in Scotland.
The latest figures available, 2017/18, show that only 58 percent of patients with oral, pharyngeal or laryngeal cancer undergoing treatment with curative intent were seen by a specialist speech and language therapist before treatment.
This is well below the 90% target for this measure, which was also not met in any of the 14 health boards.
The number of patients seen by a specialist speech and language therapist before treatment is compared to patients undergoing treatment with curative intent only rather than all patients, meaning that the number of patients not receiving specialist speech and language therapy could be much higher.
The percentage of patients seen by specialist speech and language therapists before treatment fluctuated significantly between health boards, with 9.4% of patients seen in NHS Fife, compared with 86.7% in NHS Lanarkshire.
The Head & Neck Cancer Quality Performance Indicators Report states that “A common theme for many Boards not achieving the target for this QPI was staffing and service demand issues.”
Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, said:
“These figures clearly show that significant improvement is needed in access to specialist speech and language therapists prior to treatment across Scotland.
“Recovery after treatment is an integral part to health care and the quality of life of a patient after treatment.
“People relearning how to speak after cancer treatment is incredibly important and everyone must have the support they need to do this.
“Across health boards in Scotland there is currently a post code lottery for whether a patient sees a specialist speech and language therapist before treatment and we must see improvements.
“A lack of speech therapists across health boards means that demand can’t be met and patients aren’t being given this vital support to regain their speech.”
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