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NHS failure to tackle lockdown cancer delays leaves 10,000 people waiting three months for treatment – The Telegraph

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Warnings of lockdown cancer delay went unheeded, experts have said, as it turned out 10,000 NHS patients have been waiting for treatment for more than three months.

Leading oncologists have raised fears that “tens of thousands” of patients could die unnecessarily because they are not seen soon enough.

Leaked figures show a doubling in the number of people given an urgent referral because of suspected cancer waiting at least 104 days for treatment when given the all clear, in the 12 months ending in June.

The measure is seen as a critical marker because it is defined as a “backstop waiting period, beyond which patients must be specifically tested for possible harm”.

Before the pandemic, health chiefs said there should be “zero tolerance” for such deadly delays.

On Wednesday evening, Prof Karol Sikora, a leading oncologist, said he had repeatedly urged the government to cancer risks due to lockdown.

Messages to “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” mean untold numbers of patients did not come forward to alert meds to symptomsfor fear of being a burden, he said.

Others had vital checks such as mammograms cancelled, meaning disease was detected much later, when it was less treatable, while many of those diagnosed as services focused on Covid delayed treatment.

‘Thousands and thousands of people will die’

“I repeatedly called for just one government press conference dedicated to non-Covid health issues, especially cancer. Has not happened,” tweeted Prof Sikora.

“They couldn’t spend one conference trying to raise awareness – a big shame and a big mistake.

“Thousands and thousands of people will die, and many already have, due to delays in the diagnosis/treatment of cancer.

“How many people stayed home to ‘save lives’ unaware of the irreparable damage to their own health?”

Prof Pat Price, an oncologist from Imperial College London, and chairman of the charity Action Radiotherapy said the situation was “the worst cancer crisis of my life” and described the current situation as “an absolute disaster”.

“There will be tens of thousands of cancer patients dying unnecessarily because of the disruptions with Covid“, she told BBC 4’s Today programme.

Prof Price, co-founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, is among 36 oncologists who have written to ministers calling for urgent action, including an expansion of radiotherapy services.

“People should not die simply because we cannot organize ourselves to provide timely treatment,” she said.

Doubling in waiting times

It follows warnings that money is meant for increased cancer testing diverted to fund staff pay increases.

Last month Prof Sir Mike Richards, former cancer czar, said such moves could damage services which were already “significantly” under-resourced.

The leaked data revealed by HSJ shows that 10,189 of the 327,395 people on the national cancer waiting list waited 104 days or more, at the end of July.

This is roughly double the 5,000 for such waits in June 2021.

Last month, The Telegraph revealed a doubling in two-month waits. Amanda Pritchard, head of the NHS, recently wrote to hospital bosses warning that almost nine in 10 of those facing long delays are waiting for diagnostic tests.

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