NHS bosses have insisted urgent cancer operations will go ahead in London following reports vital surgery could be cancelled as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge of coronavirus patients.
The drastic step was reportedly being considered in the capital as intensive care wards where the patients would usually recover are filling up with people ill with Covid-19, according to the Observer.
One senior figure in the health service told the newspaper: ‘These are operations that are curative if done within four weeks but if you wait longer they may not be so effective.
‘The impact of this on patients’ health depends on when they get rebooked. Delaying cancer surgery can lead to tumours growing or spreading – and worse outcomes.’
However, Sir David Sloman, NHS regional director for London, denied the Observer report, adding: ‘Londoners continue to receive urgent cancer care and surgery. Urgent cancer surgery is not being cancelled in London.’
It comes as the UK recorded the highest daily number of new infections since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were 57,725 new cases on Saturday and a further 445 coronavirus-related deaths.
A surge in cases driven by the faster-spreading mutant strain has prompted hospitals across the country to take steps to safeguard critical care facilities.
Emergency healthcare staff have already warned they are at ‘battle stations’ as they try to deal with the influx of Covid-19 patients.
Meanwhile, The Prince of Wales has warned that cancer risks becoming ‘the Forgotten C’ and that delayed operations during the pandemic are causing ‘despair’.
In a piece for the Daily Telegraph, Charles, patron of Macmillan Cancer Support, writes that the charity has lost a third of its fundraised income.
He wrote: ‘In many cases, due to the pandemic, difficulties have become crises, a sense of isolation has become actual separation, and – as vital treatment or surgery has been postponed – anxiety has become despair.
‘Macmillan has been adapting to this ever-evolving situation to ensure that cancer does not become “the Forgotten C” during the pandemic.’
Macmillan estimates up to 50,000 people could be living with undiagnosed cancer because of delays to NHS services.
In England alone, between March and August 2020, around 30,000 fewer people had started their first cancer treatment compared to the year before, it added.
According to a Health Service Journal story earlier this month, waiting lists for cancer patients have almost doubled over the past seven months, according to internal NHS data not made public.
The charity is calling for cancer services to be boosted and protected to deliver higher levels of treatment than before the pandemic, to reduce the backlog.
Macmillan faces losing £175 million over the next three years, according to the Telegraph.
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