I know just how you feel, Karol. The consultant oncologist has written a terrific piece for the Telegraph about the number of NHS patients whose cancer went untreated during the lockdowns and how his attempts to warn about the dire consequences of this neglect went unheeded.
I look back with anger and bewilderment, especially given the scale of the crisis we’re now experiencing in oncology. Predictably, figures leaked to the Health Service Journal show that over 300,000 people are on England’s cancer waiting list, with almost 40,000 waiting more than 62 days after a GP referral for suspected cancer. Over 10,000 are waiting more than 104 days, double the number in June 2021. Oncologists in other countries simply cannot believe that these numbers are true – it’s just unthinkable.
In reality, getting a GP appointment is such a hurdle that many give up. That’s a controversial statement in some corners of the medical community, but it’s undoubtedly true. People are made to feel like a burden or spend hours in phone queues when the demands of everyday life don’t allow for that. Whatever the reasons, the system is broken.
These are just the people that are coming forward. What about the tens of thousands that have a tumour developing in some part of their body but who have not sought medical treatment? Every day it goes undetected, their chances of survival drop as cancer spreads faster than the unachieved target waiting times. Thousands will die. Many already have.
Anyone doubting the severity of the cancer crisis should look at the emails I receive from desperate patients. This isn’t some hypothetical projection; it is a living nightmare for many. I honestly don’t know what the solution is. To be frank, there isn’t a complete one – certainly not in the short term. It’s a complete and utter disaster.