Covid concerns reduce cancer care in England, which some London medical researches estimate will lead to thousands of unnecessary cancer deaths.
Policy makers and health professionals worldwide have given their urgent attention over the last two years to battling the Covid-19 pandemic. Having all hands on deck to fight Covid-19 has reduced influenza deaths but reduced resources for detecting and treating cancers, and all other forms of illness.
“In order of magnitude terms it can conservatively be estimated on the basis of events to date that in the UK around 10,000 people will die of cancer significantly earlier than would have been so had the Covid 19 pandemic not occurred,” wrote the report’s first author, David Taylor. “A worst case figure could prove to be several times greater.”
University researchers said drops in emergency referrals from British general practitioners in 2020 resulted in about 40,000 late diagnoses of cancer. The delays, along with longer National Health Service (NHS) treatment due to the pandemic, means thousands will die “significantly earlier” from cancer, the report stated.
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The study results indicate more than 60 percent of the 2,096 surveyed by the university were concerned about talking to their general practitioner about “minor health problems” during the pandemic. Before Covid-19 spread, about 80 percent of appointments with doctors were in person, but only 57 percent of consultations were face-to-face in July 2021, the report noted.
“Overall, NHS waiting lists rose to over 5 million by mid-2021, which is approaching a million (25%) more than the 2019 average and double the level recorded in 2014,” Taylor et al said. “The available evidence indicates that waiting list sizes will continue to increase into 2022 and that at present significant numbers of people are living in pain and other forms of distress with no immediate prospect of being able to access appropriate NHS treatment.”
The number of emergency cancer referrals by family doctors fell significantly since March 2020, the report concludes. The authors noted a 2021 study published in Lancet indicating there were about 40,000 fewer individuals diagnosed as living with the disease than expected.
“About a quarter (24%) of respondents expressed fear that the NHS would not consistently provide them or members of their family optimally effective treatments should they develop cancer or would at worst provide poor care,” worried the report’s authors.