‘Thousands will die’ over the next decade because of a huge cancer care backlog, report reveals


‘Thousands will die’ over the next decade because of a huge cancer care backlog, damning report reveals

  • Thousands of cancer patients will die over the next decade after the pandemic 
  • About 19,500 people have not yet been diagnosed because of Covid disruptions
  • And it could take more than a decade to clear the backlog, research suggests 


Thousands of cancer patients will die over the next decade because of the devastating treatment backlog caused by the pandemic, a damning report has revealed.

Around 19,500 people in England with cancer have not yet been diagnosed due to Covid-related disruption to the NHS.

It could take more than a decade to clear this ‘missing cancer patients backlog’, according to analysis by Institute for Public Policy Research and the CF healthcare consultancy.

They calculated that even if ‘stretched’ hospitals conducted 5 per cent more treatments than pre-pandemic levels, it will take until 2033 to catch up with the cancer backlog. 

Thousands of cancer patients will die over the next decade because of the devastating treatment backlog caused by the pandemic, a damning report has revealed (stock image)

But, with extra funding and staff that figure could be pushed up to 15 per cent – allowing backlogs could be cleared by next year.

The study lays bare the catastrophic impact of the pandemic on cancer diagnosis and treatment.

During the height of the Covid crisis, from March 2020 to February 2021, 369,000 fewer people than expected were referred to a specialist with suspected cancer.

The number of chemotherapy treatments also fell by 187,000, while there were 15,000 fewer radiotherapy treatments. 

The report suggests the backlog in chemotherapy and radiotherapy could take until 2028 and 2033 respectively to clear. 

There has also been a dramatic drop in diagnostic procedures, with endoscopies down 37 per cent, MRI scans 25 per cent and CT scans ten per cent.

The report said: ‘Behind these statistics are thousands of people for whom it will now be too late to cure their cancer.

‘We estimate that the number of cancers diagnosed while they are still highly curable fell from 44 per cent before the pandemic to 41 per cent last year.’

There has also been a dramatic drop in diagnostic procedures, with endoscopies down 37 per cent, MRI scans 25 per cent and CT scans ten per cent (stock image)

There has also been a dramatic drop in diagnostic procedures, with endoscopies down 37 per cent, MRI scans 25 per cent and CT scans ten per cent (stock image)

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is crucial to survival chances.

Parth Patel, an NHS doctor who led the study, said the pandemic had undone ‘years of progress in cancer survival rates’. 

He added: ‘Now the health service faces an enormous backlog of care that threatens to disrupt services for well over a decade.

‘The funding announced this month is just enough to keep the health service afloat, but does not provide the funds to bring down pandemic backlogs as quickly as possible or transform service quality.’

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