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COVID 19 creates severe delays to cancer services


Author: Sara Westwood

Accidents and Injuries, Clinical Negligence

Delays to Cancer services

Some estimates say there may still be 350,000 missed cancer patients

Whilst the final lifting of restrictions has been put back by a few weeks we are, at long last, looking at a return to some sort of normality, albeit perhaps a different normality. This is due, in large part, to the successful vaccination programme.

What damage, however, has the pandemic done to medical care for other conditions such as cancer for example?

Sadly, it has changed significantly. Forty-four thousand fewer patients started treatment for cancer in the period between April 2020 and January 2021. Oncologists (doctors who treat cancers) significantly reduced the number of palliative treatments (to relieve the symptoms of cancer) and reduced the number of patients to receive treatment following cancer surgery. Those patients will possibly have died more quickly as a result.

Another issue of very real concern is the delay in diagnosis of cancers as a result of the pandemic. Between March 2020 and January 2021, there was an overall 16% drop in two week wait suspected cancer referrals. Some estimates say there may still be 350,000 missed cancer patients. Lung cancer referrals fell by 34%. There has been a massive 50% fall in chest x rays undertaken because we have been told we must stay away from the GP surgery and hospital if we have a cough. Endoscopy investigations for stomach and intestinal cancers stopped for several weeks and even as recently as April this year, the numbers of procedures remain lower than pre-pandemic.

This unfortunately means there will be reduced survival rates for cancer patients within the UK. It remains very important however that you do seek medical advice, whether through your GP, hospital or by calling 111 if you have any concerns about your health. Services are trying to get back to normal and the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chance of a positive outcome.

About the author

Sara Westwood is a Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Solicitor with over 15 years specialist experience. Visit her profile here.

Sara Westwood, Partner and Medical Negligence Expert at Hatch Brenner Solicitors in Norwich

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