UK National Health Service Missed 20,000 Cancer Cases During Pandemic: Analysis

HARLOW, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with staff during a visit to the Princess Alexandra hospital for an announcement on new patient scanning equipment on September 27, 2019 in Harlow, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister is pledging an overhaul to cancer screening, with the funding providing …
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An analysis of National Health Service (NHS) statistics by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that 20,000 cancer cases have gone undiagnosed due to Covid.

The IPPR, which collaborated with the CF data analytics consultancy in conducting its analysis, estimated that some 369,000 fewer people were referred to a cancer specialist than might otherwise be expected in the year following the first coronavirus lockdown and that the resulting backlog might not be cleared until 2033.

“Behind these statistics are thousands of people for whom it will now be too late to cure their cancer,” the authors of the report noted gravely in comments quoted by The Telegraph.

“We estimate that the number of cancers diagnosed while they are still highly curable (stage one and two) fell from 44 per cent before to pandemic to 41 per cent last year,” they added.

“The pandemic has severely disrupted cancer services in England, undoing years of progress in improving cancer survival rates,” warned Dr Parth Patel, an IPPR research fellow who also works as a National Health Service medic.

“Now the health service faces an enormous backlog of care that threatens to disrupt services for well over a decade. We know every delay poses risks to patients’ chances of survival,” he added, warning that it was unlikely the cancer backlog would be cleared this side of the next general election and noting that the country already “lags far behind most similar countries” in terms of cancer survival rates.

“While treating more than 450,000 seriously ill patients in hospital with Covid-19 has inevitably had a knock-on effect on other services and some people were reluctant to come forward, the NHS has continued to prioritise cancer care throughout the pandemic and referral and treatment numbers are now back to usual levels,” a spokesman for the NHS said in response to the revelations.

The suggestion that the decline in treatment is due to members of the public not coming forward during the pandemic has been made by the state healthcare provider before, but there is evidence that a number of people made strenuous efforts to try and secure treatment but were repeatedly rebuffed.

Macmillan Cancer Support reported last year on a number of such incidents, citing case studies such as that of “Simon”, a man who had previously had a brain tumour but was still repeatedly brushed off.

Simon had to make “numerous phone calls to the MRI centre and to the Neurology Department” over a period of almost three months in order to secure a scan after a previously scheduled appointment had been cancelled, noting that his much later new appointment was only secured as a result of him having “ranted and complained”.

“I then had a phone call towards the end of May, to tell me ‘I’m sorry Mr Green, you were right, the brain tumour has come back, and it’s now inoperable’,” he said.

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