As many as 740,000 urgent cancer case referrals have been missed in the UK since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic due to backlogs and growing waiting lists, a new report has warned.
The UK National Audit Office (NAO) estimated in a report on Wednesday that between 240,000 and 740,000 urgent referrals for suspected cancer cases were missed from the start of the pandemic until September 2021, as “millions of people have avoided seeking, or been unable to obtain, healthcare.”
The report claimed that the number of people undergoing cancer treatment dropped to such levels as Covid-19 took hold in the UK. “By June 2021, NHS cancer services activity had recovered to pre-pandemic levels. However, in September 2021 only 68% of patients requiring treatment within 62 days of urgent referral by their GP were receiving that treatment on time,” the NAO said.
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The NAO also warned that the waiting list in 2025 could be much higher than it is today, explaining that if “50% of missing referrals return to the NHS and activity grows only in line with pre-pandemic plans, the waiting list would reach 12 million by March 2025.”
Catchup With Cancer co-founder Professor Pat Price said the report “shows we are in the middle of the biggest cancer catastrophe ever to hit the NHS.”
“There is a deadly cocktail of delays across the board, a regional lottery of cancer inequality and a growing cancer backlog. And it feels like the Government and NHS leaders have their heads in the sand,” she said, calling the situation “frightening.”