According to the recently published NHS England’s Cancer Waiting Times data for March 2021, while the number of Londoners starting their first cancer treatment or being referred to investigate cancer symptoms is climbing, there is still a long way to go.
Nearly 300 more Londoners started their first cancer treatment in March this year compared to the average month before the pandemic hit. However, the total drop in first cancer treatments in London between March 2020 and March 2021 stands at around 5,000 or 12.3% below pre-pandemic levels. This drop is the equivalent to all first treatments in London having stopped for 7 weeks. The equivalent drop for England as a whole stands at 10.7% across the same period, which is less severe than London.
In March, over 4,000 more Londoners with suspected cancer began testing for cancer compared to the average month in 2019. Although this improvement is promising, the total drop-in appointments with a specialist following urgent referral between March 2020 and March 2021 stands at over 80,000 or 18.7% below pre-pandemic levels. This drop is the equivalent to all first cancer specialist appointments in London having stopped for more than 10 weeks. The equivalent drop for England as a whole stands at 12.3% across the same period, which is less severe than London.
Emma Tingley, Head of Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
“Although it is encouraging that our healthcare system is gearing up to make up for lost time caused by the pandemic, we still have a long way to go. This last year was a devastating period of cancer care disruption in London with tens of thousands of people missing a diagnosis or experiencing changed and delayed treatment, while their chances of survival potentially worsen. It is likely that the drop in referrals is because people might not have come forward to get symptoms checked out, which is why it is vital for people to contact their GP if they notice something that could be a cancer symptom.
“We know that all healthcare professionals and staff across the capital have been working and continue to work tirelessly to offer the best possible care, support people and save lives. But there are real problems and the Government can no longer put off fixing the chronic undersupply of cancer staffing and resources. A long-term, fully funded workforce plan is needed now to tackle the challenges ahead and provide the best care for people with cancer.
“Macmillan continues and will continue to support both professionals and thousands of Londoners with cancer or cancer symptoms who may have faced disruption to their treatment or appointments.”