New figures released by NHS England on cancer waiting times for June 2020 reveal how the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on cancer care in the capital.
Although the figures show signs of improvement on those for May, thousands of Londoners with cancer or with cancer symptoms may have faced disruption to their tests or treatment, worrying about the long-term implications for their health, their families and their future.
In London, around 800 fewer people than expected started vital cancer treatment in June to save, extend or improve their lives. That’s 27% fewer than what we would expect. The figures for England as a whole show around 25% fewer treatments started than expected.
Jacqueline Curzon who is a musician, writer and mum of 7 from London and was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2018, says:
“Following a treatment break in early spring, a scan revealed that my lung lesions had started to grow. This discovery coincided with the outbreak of coronavirus which meant that my treatment was further delayed. I therefore had a break of 4 months before chemo was restarted which was a delay I felt I could ill afford.
“To be left in this no man’s land was devastating. In my particular case, I am 90% likely to die from cancer, and only 5% likely to contract coronavirus. There was no need to lower my survival odds. I do not cry that I will not reach old age, indeed I didn’t when they told me I would die early, for we will all certainly die. I just didn’t predict a sudden downturn like the one I have just been dealt, and not when I feel so healthy. I still have lots to live for.”
Sara Bainbridge, Head of Policy & Influence at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“The number of people getting urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer in London is still worryingly low – 31% lower than the same time last year – and the number of people starting treatment also remains below expected levels.
“These results from June suggest an alarming backlog of undiagnosed cancer and a growing number of people who are yet to start treatment. This could directly impact on many of these people’s chances of survival.
“There is a lot of work to be done to get cancer care back on track and prevent cancer from becoming the forgotten ‘C’ in the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure services are able to catch up we need the Government to deliver the recovery plan promised and continue to address the scale of the challenge by securing more staffing and resources.”
Emma Tingley, Macmillan Strategic Partnerships Manager for London, adds:
“Cancer services in London seem to have been hit harder than other parts of the country however we still urge anyone with cancer symptoms that it is extremely important for them to contact their GP to limit the potential long-term impact of a delay in diagnosis.”
During the pandemic, Macmillan continues supporting people with cancer and gives them practical, emotional and financial help. We rely entirely on public donations and our income has dropped significantly. To donate to Macmillan Cancer Support’s emergency appeal please go to: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/emergency or call 0300 1000 200.