An extra 10,000 people are likely to die of cancer because of the Covid pandemic, a study has suggested.
University College London researchers said a drop in emergency referrals from GPs last year across the UK resulted in around 40,000 late diagnoses of the disease.
These delays and longer waits for NHS treatment — fuelled by the pandemic — mean thousands will die ‘significantly earlier’ from the disease than would have been the case pre-pandemic.
The study of more than 2,000 adults found nearly two thirds of people worried about bothering family doctors with ‘minor health problems’ because of Covid.
And during the first lockdown last year, the NHS moved GP appointments to online and telephone to limit face-to-face consultations. No10’s ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ messaging put people off coming forward, meaning their symptoms were never investigated.
It comes after Boris Johnson yesterday piled pressure on GPs to offer more face-to-face consultations amid concerns too many patients are struggling to see a doctor in-person. Just 57 per cent of GP appointments are now in person compared with 80 per cent before the pandemic.
A senior coroner in Manchester earlier this month concluded a lack of face-to-face care contributed to at least five deaths in the area during the pandemic. Downing Street said last night: ‘The public rightly may choose to want to see their GP face to face — and GP practices should be making that facility available to their patients.’
Charities and politicians are urging the Prime Minister to act amid fears that cancers and other serious health conditions are being missed in remote consultations.