The Daily Telegraph

Decade of progress on cancer survival ‘wiped out due to Covid’

- By Henry Bodkin HEALTH CORRESPOND­ENT

MORE than a quarter of a million urgent cancer referrals were missed due to Covid-19, a report suggests, which predicts a drop in survival chances.

Analysis by the Institute of Public Policy Research said the 43 per cent year-on-year reduction between April and June is likely to wipe out almost a decade of progress in saving lives.

The think tank points to reductions not only in urgent GP referral, whereby a patient is supposed see a specialist within two weeks if a doctor suspects the disease, but also diagnostic testing such as CT and MRI scans. GPS made 339,242 urgent cancer referrals in England between April and June, down from 594,060 in the same period last year. The IPPR predicts that because of this, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer will drop from 85 to 83.5 per cent, from 58.4 to 56.1 per cent for colorectal cancer, and from 16.2 per cent to 15.4 per cent for lung cancer.

Harry Quilter-pinner, IPPR associate director, said the Government must make it a priority to restart cancer services and “ensure they are resilient for a potential second wave of Covid-19”.

As the pandemic approached, ministers and officials initially promised that cancer services would be unaffected. However, there were soon reports of cancelled clinics, with some patients saying treatments had been postponed indefinite­ly. In April a report by NHS Providers reported that some oncology department­s had seen 85 per cent reductions in referrals.

The NHS insisted cancer services were up and running and expanding. A spokesman criticised the IPPR report as “based on scenarios that don’t correspond to what is actually happening”.

NHS England said that up to 10,000 chemothera­py home deliveries were made over three months at the peak of the outbreak.

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