GLASGOW'S health board is to open a mobile unit in a hospital car park in efforts to clear a backlog of patients waiting for a test that can detect cancers of the bowel and stomach.

It has applied for council permission to build a temporary facility at Gartnavel Royal Hospital that will carry out endoscopies.

Planning documents state the unit may be required for up to three years and is required to address the current backlog of investigative procedures.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said clinics were continuing to run with lower patient numbers due to Covid nfection control requirements. The unit will have the capacity to test around a 100 extra patients a week.

All but emergency endoscopies were stopped across the UK during the early stages of the pandemic.

The Scottish Government announced an extra £7.8m was being allocated to health boards to tackle soaring waiting lists with extra capacity at the Golden Jubilee Hospital, mobile endoscopy units and units in the private sector.

READ MORE: People in Glasgow the least happy in Scotland, survey finds

Endoscopies are used to detect bowel and stomach cancers as well as polyps, pre-cancerous growths that can develop into the disease if not removed. They can also pick up ulcers, coeliac disease or narrowing of the oesophagus.

The Herald asked NHS GGC how many people were currently waiting longer than the six-week target for the test but the board did not provide a figure.

According to the latest figures from June 30, 866 were waiting longer than a year. 

The Scottish Government is shortly due to publish a recovery plan for endoscopy services 

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK  said there are "serious challenges and issues" that it must address quickly.

She said: "The situation facing cancer diagnostic services requires laser-like focus from key decision makers and funds to invest in staff and equipment to remove the bottleneck that exists and ultimately save lives.

"We recognise the pandemic has put the NHS under tremendous strain but we are also aware that many of today's problems existed prior to Covid-19."

The most recent data shows 34,509 Scots patients were waiting for an endoscopy test on June 30.

Of those, 10.2% (3,517) had been waiting more than a year and the percentage who had been waiting 39-52 weeks increased from 6.3% to 7.8% (3,290).

There was wide variation across health boards of those seen within the target of six weeks from 22.8% to 97.9%.

In Ayrshire and Arran 989 people were waiting longer than a year for the procedure.

There have been warnings that a timebomb of undiagnosed illnesses, such as cancers, has built up as people stayed away and missed routine checks or did not want to trouble GPs.

As early as September last year, a leading cancer doctor said it was "inevitable" that doctors would see more patients with advanced disease.

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Dr Rob Jones, Professor of Clinical Cancer Research at Glasgow’s Beatson centre, said delays had happened “all the way through the pathway” from initial contact with GPs to further investigation by clinical specialists.

The cancer specialist described the challenges of assessing patients remotely.

A spokesperson for NHS GGC said: "As part of our recovery from the pandemic, we will provide additional capacity for scope procedures to help reduce waiting times. 

"Our current endoscopy clinics continue to run with lower patient numbers due to continued social distancing and infection control requirements. 

"The new unit, which is backed by Scottish Government funding, will help to deal with those pressures, treating around 20 patients a day. 

"The unit on the Gartnavel Hospital campus will be available to patients from across the health board area. 

"It is hoped the unit will be operational around the end of January 2022."

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