Thank you to those who have contacted me about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on cancer services.
I totally share your concerns that cancer pathways have been affected during the pandemic. Estimates suggest that around two million people are waiting for cancer screening, tests or treatment.
Cancer charities have called on the Government to work closely with the NHS to ensure it has enough staff and resources to clear the backlog of unmet clinical need.
With record numbers of patients waiting for diagnostic tests, I believe we need an urgent and fully resourced plan to tackle this backlog and enable our health service to move between the competing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic and non-COVID-19-related care.
The Government said all NHS providers must ensure that cancer diagnosis, treatment and care continue during the response to the COVID-19 emergency. NHS trusts in England have been advised that cancer treatment, including radiotherapy services, “must be brought back to pre-pandemic levels at the earliest opportunity” to minimise potential harm and to reduce the scale of the post-pandemic surge in demand.
The NHS is facing a second spike in COVID-19 infections alongside additional winter pressures. Resetting the NHS to continue treating COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients is an important priority as the growing burden of unmet clinical need risks widening health inequalities. I believe Ministers must ensure that anyone with suspected cancer receives effective and timely diagnosis and referral, and that all cancer patients receive the care and treatment they need.
The Chancellor has promised to give the NHS “whatever it needs” to cope during the pandemic. I believe he should made good on his promise and ensure that our health service is fully prepared to deal with the competing demands of the non-COVID-19 backlog, the ongoing risk of a second spike and winter pressures.