Cancer treatment catch-up falters as Covid cases and staff shortages hit hospitals
The Guardian|October 22, 2021
Progress in clearing the NHS cancer treatment backlog in England has swung into reverse amid high Covid cases and staff shortages, a new analysis suggests.
Andrew Gregory

With rising coronavirus hospital cases also now piling pressure on the health service, experts warned that patients should brace themselves for worse to come as a “perfect storm” loomed in cancer care.

The NHS has been striving to catch up with the pandemic backlog of cancer care but the analysis of official data by Macmillan Cancer Support suggests the drive has recently suffered a setback, with growing numbers of potential cancer diagnoses missed.

Four key cancer measures have fallen back, with two dropping to their worst ever level. Figures published by NHS England, analysed by Macmillan for the Guardian, show the number of patients starting treatment in August, following a decision to treat, fell to 25,800. The figure was above 27,000 in both June and July.

The proportion of patients who began treatment within one month of the decision to treat fell to 93.7% – the lowest percentage ever recorded.

Data published last week also shows that in August there was another new record-high number of patients forced to wait for more than two months after an urgent referral from a GP before starting cancer treatment. About 4,075 patients began treatment only two months after being referred, the highest figure recorded, according to Macmillan.

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