NHS patients in Scotland wait five weeks on average for cancer treatment from the time the illness is first suspected, official statistics have shown.

The proportion of patients who began treatment within two months (62 days) of an urgent referral was 96 per cent between July and September last year.

There will be a 31-day target from decision to treat to treatment for all cancer patients

This is slightly up on the previous quarter and above the government target of 95 per cent - which has now been met for a whole year.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “We know there’s more to do and are working towards new targets by the end of 2011, including the ambitious goal to start treatment for all cancer patients within 31 days of their decision to treat.”

The mainland NHS boards with the highest and lowest proportions of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent referral between last July and September were NHS Borders (100 per cent) and NHS Fife (94.3 per cent) respectively. The latter was the only board below the 95 per cent target.

The cancer types with the highest proportion of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent referral was breast cancer (97.3 per cent) and urology (97 per cent). The lowest was colorectal cancer (93.4 per cent), the only one not meeting the 95 per cent target.

Targets being introduced by December next year will set out that patients should wait no longer than 62 days from referral to treatment if they are urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer or through a national screening programme

There will also be a 31-day target from decision to treat to treatment for all cancer patients, whatever their route of referral.