University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust cancer appointments still below pre-coronavirus levels
The number of people seen for suspected cancer at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust following an urgent GP referral rose significantly in May, but was still well below pre-coronavirus levels.
Macmillan Cancer Support says many people are still avoiding critical care due to Covid-19 and is calling for an urgent recovery plan to deal with the backlog once thousands of “invisible patients” come forward.
NHS England data shows 713 people were seen by a specialist at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer in May – 37% more than in April, when 521 appointments were recorded.
But this was still the lowest figure for the month since 2011, and a 42% drop compared to last year.
A similar pattern was seen across England, where the figure rose by 34% between April and May, to 106,500.
However, this was still 94,000 (47%) fewer than the number seen last May, and the lowest number for the month since 2011.
Macmillan’s Sara Bainbridge said: “We know that many will have been afraid to come forward with symptoms for fear of being a burden on the NHS or catching coronavirus.
“As thousands of these ‘invisible patients’ are diagnosed with cancer and begin their treatment, our cancer services face being under more pressure than ever before.”
Ms Bainbridge said Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent mini-budget, in which he announced fresh measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis, was a missed opportunity to ensure cancer “does not become the forgotten ‘C’ in this pandemic”.
She added: “It is absolutely critical that the Government commit to addressing the backlog in cancer treatment, including the staffing and resources needed, to deliver the care that many are anxiously waiting for.”
At University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust, the number of people starting treatment following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer fell by 30% in May compared to last year.
This mirrored the national picture – the figure dropped 37% to 16,700.
An NHS spokeswoman said: “Throughout the Covid pandemic, hospitals have successfully and quickly cared for patients urgently referred by their GP, with over 94% of such urgent cancer referrals being investigated within 14 days, and over 65,000 people starting treatment for cancer throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“Urgent referrals are now increasing again as people come forward for a cancer check, and anyone who is concerned about a possible symptom should contact their GP and come forward for a check-up.”