NHS Backlog

NHS Faces Its “Biggest Cancer Catastrophe Ever” Due to Pandemic Backlog

Over the course of the pandemic, roughly 750,000 urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer were not followed up, putting patients at risk and loading more pressure onto the NHS backlog. The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported that 12 million people will be on the waiting list for treatment by 2025, with 60,000 cancer patients undergoing treatment at a later date than would be expected between March 2020 and September 2021. The Express has the story.

Up to 740,000 urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer were “missed” during the pandemic, according to a new shocking report by the NAO. The report also highlighted that the NHS waiting list for care that is planned in advance will continue to grow until at least 2025.

It said that the waiting list will hit 12 million by March 2025 half of those who have missed referrals return to the NHS and its activity grows in line with pre-Covid levels.

Even if the NHS can increase its activity by 10%, the NAO estimates that the waiting list in March 2025 will still be a whopping seven million.

The shifting of resources to Covid over the past two years has seen cancer patients wait much longer to receive treatment.

One waiting time standard states that 85% of cancer patients should not wait any longer than 62 days to start treatment after an urgent GP referral.

But between March 2020 and September 2021, 26% had to wait more than 62 days for treatment to start.

The NAO estimates that in this time, up to 60,000 (and only as low as 35,000) fewer people started cancer treatment than would have been expected.

Its report pushed Professor Pat Rice, Co-Founder of the Catch Up With Cancer campaign, to write that “we are in the middle of the biggest cancer catastrophe ever to his the NHS”.

She added: “We need to the Government to urgently outline how additional funding will be spent on cancer treatments, backlog busting technologies, like radiotherapy, and the cancer workforce.

“Cancer patients don’t have the luxury of time, if we don’t act more people will die at home who don’t need to.”

This comes amid the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant, which is stealing the attention of health chiefs and Government ministers.

Despite this, some top Government advisers have insisted that fears about the variant have been overplayed.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Backlog for Missed Cancer Diagnoses May Hit 50,000

According to MacMillan Cancer Support, there have been close to 50,000 missed cancer diagnoses since the time of the first lockdown, with the charity warning that the number could increase drastically over the coming months due to winter pressures placed on the NHS. The charity have also commented that there is currently a shortage of qualified cancer nurses to assist in tackling the backlog, exacerbating the initial problem. The Express has the story.

The NHS is struggling to work its way through the number of people waiting for treatment which spiked during Government-imposed lockdowns, when citizens were told to avoid using health services where possible. And figures suggest that the situation will get much worse before it starts to get better, with upcoming cancer checks likely to add significantly to the patient waiting list.

Macmillan Cancer Support has estimated that more than 47,000 people in the UK have missed a cancer diagnosis since the first lockdown.

Amid warnings of new Covid variants and further disruption to the NHS this winter, the charity added that the number of missed diagnoses could increase further still.

Steven McIntosh, Executive Director of Advocacy and Communications at the charity, said: “Nearly two years into the pandemic, there is still a mountain of almost 50,000 people who are missing a cancer diagnosis.

“Thousands more are already facing delays and disruption as they go through treatment.”

In order to catch up with the number of people who should have started treatment since March last year, Macmillan Cancer Support estimated that NHS England would have to work at a staggering 110% capacity for 13 consecutive months.

McIntosh added: “While hard-working healthcare professionals continue to do all they can to diagnose and treat patients on time, they are fighting an uphill battle.

“Cancer patients are stuck, waiting in a system that doesn’t have the capacity to treat them fast enough, let alone deal with the backlog of thousands who have yet to come forward.”

The charity warned that a primary issue faced by the NHS in its challenge to work through the cancer backlog was a lack of cancer nurses.

Worth reading in full.

Record Number of People Waiting for Vital Heart Scans Due to NHS Backlog

According to the British Heart Foundation, nearly 65,000 people were waiting six weeks or more for a heart scan in September, with the charity warning that delaying this check means that patients do not receive the treatment they need soon enough, putting lives at risk. In addition, the British Lung Foundation estimates that roughly 46,000 people have undiagnosed lung disease largely because diagnostic tests were suspended due to the fear it would spread Covid. The Telegraph has the story.

An echo scan is used after a heart attack or heart failure to look at the structure of a patient’s heart and determine what treatment or surgery is needed.

Delays to the scans, resulting in delays to treatment, are putting patients’ lives at risk, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said, as analysis showed that 44% are now waiting six weeks or more, the highest percentage on record since the data was compiled.

Reduced access to healthcare during the Covid crisis has created a “hidden backlog” of people with heart disease who have yet to be added to waiting lists, the charity said, with around 10,000 fewer scans being carried out each month on average. It comes as NHS waiting lists to start treatment reached 5.8 million.

Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, the Associate Medical Director of the BHF, said: “Waiting lists for heart treatments were too long even before the pandemic began, and they are now rising to record levels.”

She said the delays are “all the more tragic when effective heart treatments exist” and called for an urgent plan to address cardiovascular recovery.

Separately, almost 50,000 people in England are living with undiagnosed lung disease, with a lack of access to GPs and the suspension of tests in the pandemic contributing to a 51% drop in diagnoses.

The British Lung Foundation said diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a serious lung disease, halved in the last year, with an estimated 46,000 people unknowingly living with the condition.

It said a combination of factors had led to the fall, including the suspension of essential diagnostic breathing tests during Covid due to concerns over the spread of the virus, long waits to see specialists and difficulties getting a GP appointment. More than 1.3 million people in the U.K. have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sarah Woolnough, the Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the growing number of undiagnosed patients was a “ticking timebomb” for the NHS.

Worth reading in full.