Huge cancer backlog 'must be tackled', warn MPs and cancer specialists

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In an unprecedented move, the chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, Radiotherapy and Health, together with the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, will ask medical colleges, cancer specialists and charities for their views on how to tackle what they say is a deadly crisis. The consultation will be presented on May 26, along with a demand for action. Suspected cancer referrals fell by 350,000 in March-August 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. There were also around 40,000 fewer people who started cancer treatment in 2020.

MPs say the Government has not provided enough investment, planning or priority to deal with the backlog.

And medics have reported a spike in late-stage and incurable cancers that were previously curable.

Leading oncologist Professor Pat Price said: “We’ve been warning the highest levels of government about the scale and seriousness of the Covid cancer backlog since April last year. But they seem to be denying there is a problem.”

She added that when challenged, the Government has said the NHS is now meeting waiting targets. But she said this ignores patients whose treatment has been delayed and those still undiagnosed.

Professor Price, from Imperial College London, added: “It doesn’t include the tens of thousands who haven’t come forward yet due to fears of accessing the NHS and securing GP appointments.”

She said: “There were 350,000 fewer referrals for a period last year. If all those patients do present, the system will be swamped and collapse unless there is a massive boost to service capacity.

“It is this unwillingness to accept there is a problem that means we are sleepwalking into a cancer crisis.”

Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cancer, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, said: “The cancer backlog is a national emergency and requires urgent action.”



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