Cancer patients will only be guaranteed treatment if Covid-19 stays ‘under control’, Matt Hancock claimed today as he faced a roasting from MPs over an Excel spreadsheet blunder that has potentially led to tens of thousands of Britons being unaware they are infected with the virus.
The Health Secretary claimed that it was ‘critical for everybody to understand the best way to keep cancer services running is to suppress the disease’, suggesting that hundreds of thousands of patients may face delays to planned surgery and chemotherapy, if the outbreak continues to spiral. Vital operations were cancelled and patients missed out on potentially life-saving therapy in the spring because tackling Covid-19 became the sole focus of the health service, instead of cancer and other cruel diseases.
Almost 2.5million people missed out on cancer screening, referrals or treatment at the height of lockdown, even though the NHS was never overwhelmed — despite fears it would be crippled by the pandemic.
Experts now fear the number of people dying as a result of delays triggered by the treatment of coronavirus patients could even end up being responsible for as many deaths as the pandemic itself. Surgeons have worriedly called for hospital beds to be ‘ring-fenced’ for planned operations during the pandemic, to avoid the upheaval of spring where patients faced a ‘tsunami of cancellations’ as the health service focused on battling coronavirus.