Macmillan Cancer Support says the continued disruption to cancer treatment caused by Covid-19 is traumatising people six months into the pandemic, as a second wave threatens further setbacks.
NHS England data shows 219 patients started treatment for cancer at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in August – 56 fewer than the 275 to do so 12 months previously.
NHS England data shows 219 patients started treatment for cancer at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in August
Across England, 20,200 patients started treatment in August – more than 5,500 fewer than 25,800 a year earlier.
There had been signs of improvement, with the number rising in June and reaching 21,600 in July after a low of 16,700 in May.
Dr Geraldine Skailes, Medical Director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, urgent cancer treatment has continued to be offered across Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, including the utilisation of the independent sector for breast, gynaecology and urology cancer services.
“Although we have seen a recent increase in Covid-19 within our local community, it’s important that anyone who is concerned about symptoms seeks advice from their GP as soon as possible.
“We are very keen to ensure all patients who need tests or treatment are referred to ensure that if they are diagnosed with cancer it can be treated at as early a stage as possible.
“We would encourage everyone to adhere closely to local restrictions, and follow national guidance to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep themselves and the community safe.”
But Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the latest figures were “extremely worrying”.
“Disruption to cancer diagnosis and treatment is having a traumatic impact on cancer patients’ lives,” she added.
“Earlier this week, the Health Secretary highlighted growing fears that rapidly rising Covid-19 rates could have an impact on the recovery of already fragile cancer services.
“Cancer must not become the ‘forgotten C’ during this pandemic. It is critical the Government urgently puts plans and resources in place to increase capacity and protect the NHS from further disruption, as we stare down the barrel of a second wave.”
Of the patients at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust who started treatment in August, 90.4 per cent did so within one month of their diagnosis – short of the NHS target of 96 per cent.
Across England, 94.5 per cent started within the timeframe, slightly down from 95.1 per cent in July and 96.1 per cent the previous August.
An NHS spokesman said: “Cancer clinicians worked hard to ensure that, despite the disruption and acute pressures from Covid, around 85 per cent of cancer treatments continued during the pandemic with over 246,000 people receiving treatment and more than 870,000 referred for checks since the start of March.
“Cancer and screening services are open, ready and able to receive patients so anyone who is concerned about a possible cancer symptom should contact their GP and come forward for a check.”