The UK could see 35,000 excess cancer deaths due to NHS backlog caused by Covid-19

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UK cancer experts predict up to 35,000 excess cancer deaths in a year under a worst-case scenario due to the impact of Covid-19.

Urgent referrals for cancer care have dropped and treatments have been delayed or cancelled, the NHS now has a major backlog for screenings resulting in delayed or missed diagnoses.

Most recent cancer data research looked at the rates of urgent cancer referrals up to the end of May and it shows they are still down by 44.5 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

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According to a study conducted by DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HDR UK) for Cancer, up to two million routine breast, bowel and cervical cancer screenings may have been missed throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Researchers examined data from eight hospital trusts in modelling outcomes depending upon how long the delays continue.

DATA-CAN’s scientific lead Professor Mark Lawler said: “Anecdotally, people have been telling us there were problems, but I think the critical thing was being able to actually have routine data from hospital trusts.” NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said the organisation was striving to restore cancer services back to normal levels as quickly as possible.


NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said the organisation was striving to restore cancer services back to normal levels as quickly as possible.

Mike Birtwistle, health policy expert at the Incisive Health consultancy, which polled 2,000 British adults, said: “We are facing a coronavirus time bomb which could result in poor health outcomes, pain, and misery for years to come.


“Levels of coronavirus may be falling but public fear is still very real. I fear an explosion of ill-health is inevitable.”

Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer NHS England said: “What we were concerned to do when the virus was increasing very rapidly in the population, was to make sure that we could get the right balance between the risk of catching the virus, and the risk of having people’s cancer get worse.”

 




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