Turning the NHS into a Covid service during the pandemic was always going to end in catastrophe, and now the explosion in serious cancers may have a more serious long-term effect than the virus itself, says leading cancer doctor Karol Sikora in the Telegraph. Here’s an excerpt.
Dealing with a stage one cancer is infinitely easier and consumes far fewer resources than a tumour which has migrated beyond its initial location to stage 3 or 4. The entire system is now clogged up with more advanced conditions, not just cancer, missed over the pandemic, leading to more delays and more suffering. This fuels more pressure and even longer waits for everybody.
Frankly, British cancer services should be put into special measures. Waits of months and even years for diagnosis and treatment would not have looked out of place in a third world country when I was the World Health Organisation’s cancer director. Data emerged last week that one patient in East Kent endured 1,000 days to have a diagnostic decision made; another in Lincolnshire had to wait 350 to see a specialist, with a patient in Hartlepool taking 469 to start treatment. These aren’t anomalies – thousands and thousands of vulnerable patients are being hung out to dry by a system which is failing the very people it’s supposed to protect.
The hands of NHS cancer staff – who are among the best in the world – are being tied behind their backs and criticism is not encouraged. NHS management should be hauled in front of Parliament tomorrow to explain these figures. For when I read statements from various politicians and NHS England sources, I’m appalled by the spin and sheer refusal to accept how dire the situation is. Meaningless word salad, created by highly paid PR managers, is spouted out at the taxpayer’s expense simply to protect reputations rather than benefit patients.
Politicians cannot say that they were not warned. It’s all a desperately predictable outcome to a pandemic response guided solely by opinion polling and incompetent modelling. The big unspoken truth in British politics is that an almost two-year long lockdown experiment was the greatest policy mistake in my lifetime. Any questionable benefits in terms of ‘protecting’ the elderly have been vastly outweighed by the immeasurable damage to the younger generations. Indeed, the explosion in serious cancers may have a more serious long-term effect than the virus itself.
Anyone who doubts the impact on cancer patients should look at my lockdown inbox. Stopping young, otherwise healthy, people’s chemotherapy was scandalous. But will that ever be accepted by an establishment which threw its incomparable weight behind the measures? Not a chance, nor will the discussion even take place. Instead, cancer patients will be used as a political football by all parties to further their own ambitions.
Worth reading in full.