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NHS 'sleepwalking into cancer disaster' with thousands left undiagnosed in pandemic backlog

THE NHS is "sleepwalking into a cancer disaster" due to thousands left undiagnosed in the pandemic backlog, charities and MPs have warned.

Royal Colleges and Cancer Research UK today called for more funding to go to cancer services.

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More than a dozen leading doctors and organisations signed a letter to the Government.

It said: "We call on the Government to urgently address the Covid-induced cancer backlog and save thousands of lives by allocating funding for cancer services.

"We further urge the Government to recognise that to catch up with the cancer backlog, NHS services need the tools to “super-boost” capacity above pre-pandemic levels.

"This means revisiting aspects of the Budget and Spending Review to ring-fence urgent cancer investment."

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron told the MailOnline: "We are sleepwalking into a cancer crisis and the lack of action from the Government has left the cancer community in shock.

"The Government and NHS leaders keep saying they have it under control, but right at the moment we need action."

Some 2,000 cases of child cancer are suspected to have been missed in the year of Covid lockdowns.

Chris Thomas, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), warned the drop “risks creating a ticking time bomb for missed cancer cases and a decade of disruption for health services, unless urgent action is taken”. 

BACKLOG FEARS

Diagnosing cancer early is the key to the best chance of survival. 

Fear of catching coronavirus or putting more pressure on the NHS has left Brits avoiding seeking medical help for symptoms.

Combined with this, there have been delays in screenings and diagnostic tests during lockdowns, meaning some curable cancers become difficult to treat. 

It comes after patients face waiting as long as two years for crucial ops thanks to a "truly frightening" backlog, the NHS’s former boss has warned.

Sir David Nicholson said earlier this month he fears the huge delays caused by the Covid crisis poses a risk to people's health.

The pandemic has led to a widespread suspension of normal NHS diagnostic tests and surgery as hospitals prioritised saving Covid victims. 

Sir David told the Guardian: "The backlog is truly frightening. We can very easily get to the next election with people waiting over two years. It’s easy to do that.

"The whole issue of access [to care] is a greater threat to the NHS than privatisation because poor access undermines confidence amongst those people who fund the service – taxpayers."

The Sun's columnist Deborah James has previously told of the friend's she lost to cancer, while treatments were halted in the first Covid wave.

A government spokesperson previously said: “Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a top priority throughout the pandemic, with 1.86 million urgent referrals and over 477,000 people receiving cancer treatment between March 2020 and January 2021.

"We urge anyone with symptoms to get checked by their GP."

 

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