Was the NHS right to delay cancer treatment during COVID?
At the outset of the pandemic, medical leaders told cancer patients to delay treatment during the first wave of the virus. This advice was based on the concern that those patients receiving chemotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery would be faced with a huge risk of death if they contracted the virus.
Data published by the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project, a team created in March 2020 to collect and analyse the interactions between COVID and cancer, contradicts the NHS hospitals’ stance in delaying treatment and confirms it would have been advantageous for patients to have continued treatment, especially those with tumours, even if they contracted Coronavirus.
Professor Gary Middleton, who heads up the project, said:
“We're pretty sure that we should be putting out the message, very, very, very loud and clear that it's safer for patients with cancer to receive chemotherapy and immunotherapy. We've got to accept the fact that if we're not giving these treatments, we're doing our patients a disservice.”
"People understand Covid but at the end of the day, when you're the person that's got the cancer that's progressing to a point at which you're no longer operable or which you're at higher risk of metastatic progression, then that's terrible for that patient, so I think there's going to be a huge amount of this.”
In 2020, 3 million people in the UK missed cancer screenings and 2 million patients waited more than 18 weeks for routine hospital treatment due to the pandemic. These delays will inevitably mean a rise in delayed diagnosis and advanced/metastatic cancer when this could have potentially been avoided if screenings and treatment had gone ahead.
Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK's head of early diagnosis, said:
“many patients are still a long way off receiving the swift cancer diagnoses that will give them the best chance of being treated successfully, and worryingly we don't yet know what the long-term impact on cancer stage and survival will be.”
If you or a loved one has experienced delays in cancer treatment or a delay in diagnosis, please call Swain & Co’s team of experienced medical negligence lawyers who regularly advise and represent people in cases relating to delayed diagnosis.