The coronavirus pandemic could cause 35,000 excess cancer deaths within the next year as a result of delays in diagnosis and treatment, experts have warned.
According to a study conducted by DATA-CAN, the Health Care Research Hub (HDR UK) for Cancer, up to two million routine breast, bowel and cervical cancer screenings may have been missed throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Researchers examined data from eight hospital trusts in modelling outcomes depending upon how long the delays continue.
Sharing the results with BBC Panorama, researchers warned that a worst-case scenario could see 35,000 more people dying of cancer by this time next year.
DATA-CAN’s scientific lead Professor Mark Lawler told the programme: “Anecdotally, people have been telling us there were problems, but I think the critical thing was being able to actually have routine data from hospital trusts.”
NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer Peter Johnson said the organisation was striving to restore cancer services back to normal levels as quickly as possible.
He told the BBC’s Panorama programme: “We’re working as fast as we can to put the services back together again, to restore the capacity and indeed to build more, so that we can deal with the people that have not been diagnosed during the time when the services have been running below 100%.
“I’m hoping that we will get back to where we need to be by the end of the year.”
Britain’s leading medical experts have written an open letter calling for an urgent review of whether the country is properly prepared for the “real risk” of another fight against Covid-19.
Earlier modelling has suggested a new peak could hit after Christmas and kill as many as 60 people a day.
The letter published in the British Medical Journal warns ministers that urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life and to protect the economy amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak over the winter.
The appeal is backed by the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association.
In an open letter to the leaders of all the UK political parties published in the British Medical Journal, the health leaders call for a “rapid and forward-looking assessment” of the state of national preparedness in the event of a renewed flare-up.
They called for the creation of a cross-party commission with a “constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach,” to be established to develop practical recommendations for action based on what had been learned so far.
The letter came as former chief scientific advisor Sir David King, who now leads the unofficial ‘Independent Sage’ group, told Sky News the lockdown easing is “ extraordinarily risky”.
He said lifting lockdown too quickly means “the risk of running into a second wave becomes very significant”.
He added: “We must aim to completely get rid of the virus of this country before the winter.”
BBC Panorama’s ‘Britain’s Cancer Crisis’ airs on Monday, July 6 at 7.30pm on BBC One.