Warnings of lockdown cancer delays went unheeded, experts have said, as it emerged 10,000 NHS patients have been waiting for treatment for more than three months. The Telegraph has more.
Leading oncologists raised fears “tens of thousands” of patients may die needlessly, because they are not being seen quickly enough.
Leaked figures show a doubling in the number of people waiting at least 104 days to start treatment in the 12 months ending in June.
The measure is seen as a critical marker because it is defined as a “backstop waiting time, beyond which patients should be specifically reviewed for potential harm”.
Before the pandemic, health chiefs said there should be “zero tolerance” of such deadly delays.
On Wednesday night Prof Karol Sikora, a leading oncologist, said he had repeatedly urged the Government to address the cancer risks posed by lockdown.
Messages to “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” meant untold numbers of patients did not come forward to alert medics to symptoms, for fear of being a burden, he said.
Others had vital checks like mammograms cancelled, meaning disease was spotted far later, when less treatable, while many of those who were diagnosed as services focused on Covid suffered treatment delays.
Craig Russell, 53, lost his 31-year-old daughter, Kelly Smith, to bowel cancer in June 2020 after her chemotherapy was paused due to Covid.
Mr Russell, who lives in Macclesfield, Cheshire, said: “Kelly was diagnosed in 2017 and it was stage 4. It took nine months to get a diagnosis.”
Her chemotherapy, which she was having every two weeks, was paused in March 2020 and she was told to self-isolate. She died in June 2020.
Describing the days after Ms. Smith was told about her diagnosis, Mr. Russell said: “When she went home and thought about it, the implications started to dawn on her. The chemotherapy was holding the cancer back and without it, it was expected that the cancer would start to spread quite rapidly. Which it did. She was very scared, confused, and quite angry.
“She was having blood tests every two weeks, but results that usually come in a day or two were taking seven or eight days. Six weeks after she was told to self-isolate, they gave her two to four weeks to live. She’d always responded well to chemotherapy. She may have got 12 months left to live.”
Ms. Smith left behind an eight-year-old son.
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