NHS Fife is taking action to improve access to speech therapists for head and neck cancer patients before they go through potentially life-changing treatment.
The board said it was actively recruiting to ensure more people are assessed before treatment that could affect their ability to eat, speak or swallow.
The move follows the release of figures last month showing that just 9.4% of people diagnosed with head and neck cancer in Fife were seen by specialists in advance of treatment.
No Scottish NHS board met the Scottish Government’s target of 90%, with many citing issues with staffing and demand.
NHS Fife was bottom of the table with nine out of 10 not assessed, well below the Scottish average of 58%.
Director of nursing Helen Buchanan said NHS Fife did not provide head and neck cancer surgery, with patients from the region referred to specialist centres in NHS Lothian and NHS Tayside as part of the South East Scotland Cancer Network.
“Patients who have been referred to other boards for their cancer surgery may continue their ongoing treatment, including speech and language therapy, with these boards or they may return to NHS Fife during and after treatment to ensure they get the most appropriate care and support when they need it,” she said.
“The quality performance indicator referenced relates to access to speech and language therapy before treatment and does not reflect the therapy provided by NHS Fife during and after treatment.
“NHS Fife has put measures in place to improve access to speech and language therapy before treatment by October 2019 and the board is actively recruiting to support this effort.”
Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, who had previously described the Fife figure as “really concerning and shocking”, asked the Scottish Government what action it was taking to improve the situation.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “NHS Fife has put a plan in place to improve access to speech and language therapy before treatment by October 2019 through the recruitment and training of additional specialist staff.”
Mr Fraser said he would be keeping a close eye on the situation.