The NHS in Scotland fell short of its cancer waiting time target despite recording its best ever performance in reducing waiting times.
The Chief Statistician today announced that for January to March 2008, the number of patients being treated within two months of an urgent referral was 94.1%, up from 84.5% in the same period a year ago.
Overall, the quarterly statistics reveal that 2,177 patients were treated within 62 days of urgent referral. If just 20 more had begun treatment within the timescale, the 95% target the government has set NHS Boards would have been achieved.
Also published today, for the first time, were statistics on waiting times for childhood cancers and patients with acute leukaemia or breast cancer.
These showed that all children diagnosed with cancer last year began treatment within 31 days of urgent referral, that 99 % of patients with acute leukaemia in 2007 began their treatment within 31 days and that 83.2% of breast cancer patients began treatment within 31 days of diagnosis last year.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for cancer patients to maximise their chances of survival.
"That's why it is encouraging that these figures show Scotland has recorded its best ever performance in cutting cancer waiting times. But we can, and must, do more.
"Today's figures show that we are continuing to make good progress and waiting times are continuing to fall. Health boards came very close to meeting the demanding 62-day target which has proved particularly challenging for them.
"The statistics show that boards have done well - and waiting times are coming down. But I now want boards to make one last push which will enable us not only to meet the target but to sustain that level of service. In addition, we are currently updating our cancer strategy which will be published soon."