With the coronavirus crisis beginning to show signs of greater control, NHS England is moving to ensure that infection concerns do not lead to unacceptable health risks in other areas.
In a press release today, NHS England urged people not to hesitate to get checked for cancer symptoms despite the current pressures on the NHS due to COVID-19.
The announcement comes shortly after researchers at University College London released a paper, Estimating excess mortality in people with cancer and multimorbidity in the COVID-19 emergency, which estimates a 20% increased overall mortality for cancer patients over the next year. This is attributed to a range of factors including:
- substantial drops in urgent referrals from GPs and in chemotherapy appointments
- social and psychological consequences of social distancing
- difficulties in paying the bills/loss of employment
- coronavirus infections among cancer patients
Cancer Research UK has estimated that a drop in both screening and urgent referrals mean that 2,700 fewer people have been being diagnosed every week.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer, said:
“NHS staff have made huge efforts to deal with coronavirus but they are also working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services such as cancer checks and urgent surgery.
“The wishes of patients and their families will always come first, and we have to make sure that people feel safe coming to hospitals, but my message is clear: people should seek help as they always would.”
Various other patient groups and charity foundations have supported the move whilst urging people to seek advice and referrals from the NHS when they notice signs, symptoms or changes out of the ordinary.