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Coronavirus has caused widespread disruption to cancer care in England

Published on 12/06/20 at 10:52am
Photo by Francis Tyers

Figures show that cancer care in England has faced major disruption due to a big drop in referrals from GPs because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to NHS England data.

In April, the number of people being assessed by a cancer doctor after referral fell to 79,500 in April, which was a drop of 60% compared to April 2019. Patients’ also starting treatment fell to 10,800 which was 20% lower than the same month last year.

The NHS has attempted to adapt to the new pressures of the coronavirus, such as creating COVID-19 free wings of hospitals, where treating the virus is not done, as well as delivering more chemotherapy in people’s homes. This local therapy is carried out by a ‘chemo-bus’, which is an adapted van that is able to provide the treatment. These have been organized by 21 cancer hubs in England designed.

However, Cancer Research UK estimated that over 2 million people are waiting for screenings across the UK and thousands more have had their treatment stopped.

Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The pandemic has wreaked havoc on cancer care, with 2,500 fewer people starting vital treatment to save, extend or improve their lives and a staggering 130,000 fewer seeing a specialist for suspected cancer after an urgent GP referral, than we would expect under normal circumstances. Instead, many people with cancer are being left to wait for next steps in fear, worrying about the long-term implications for their health, their families and their future.

“UK governments must now urgently commit to measures to address the backlog, including the allocation of the staffing and resources needed to deliver the safest possible care.”

Outside of cancer, routine operations have been cancelled to free up space for COVID-19 patients with just 41,000 taking place in April, compared to 280,000 during the same period last year.

Conor Kavanagh

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