Extra 10,000 Britons may die of cancer due to Covid pandemic delays fuelled by a drop in emergency referrals from GPs, report warns

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  • Researchers say lack of emergency referrals led to decline in diagnoses
  • University College London report warns thousands will die ‘long before’
  • Anxiety Many people are still struggling to get a personal GP appointment

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A study has suggested that more than 10,000 people are likely to die of cancer due to the COVID pandemic.

Researchers at University College London said last year a drop in emergency referrals from GPs across the UK resulted in nearly 40,000 late diagnoses of the disease.


These delays and longer waits for NHS treatment – driven by the pandemic – mean that thousands of people will die from the disease ‘much earlier’ than they would have been in the pre-pandemic case.

A study of more than 2,000 adults found that nearly two-thirds are concerned about bothering family doctors with ‘minor health problems’ due to Covid.

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And during the first lockdown last year, the NHS moved GP appointments to online and telephone to limit face-to-face consultations. No10’s ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ message kept people from coming forward, meaning their symptoms were never tested.

It comes as Boris Johnson pressured GPs yesterday to offer face-to-face consultations, amid concerns too many patients are struggling to see a doctor in person.

There are now only 57 percent of GP appointments, compared to 80 percent before the pandemic.

Earlier this month a senior coroner in Manchester concluded that a lack of face-to-face care contributed to at least five deaths in the region during the pandemic.

Downing Street said last night: ‘The public rightfully wants to see their GP face-to-face – and GP practices should provide this facility to their patients.’

Charities and politicians are urging the prime minister to act amid fears that cancer and other serious health conditions are being missed in remote consultations.

The graph shows: The number of people waiting to see a cancer doctor in the UK increased from 5,000 at the start of the pandemic to nearly 30,000 in June this year.

Twenty-three million appointments, whether face-to-face or otherwise, were ‘lost’ even during the pandemic.

Of the 2,000 people polled by UCL, people over 65 – the group most likely to need health care – were the least likely to see their doctor remotely.

British adults want blood tests that screen for cancer, study finds

A new survey has found that three in four British adults want a blood test to check for cancer, while concerns about the disease are growing.

The report released by University College London (UCL) said that 40 percent of respondents said their lives had been changed because people important to them were harmed by cancer.

A May 2021 survey of 2,096 UK adults found that 75 per cent said they would like to be tested regularly when single blood tests for multiple forms of cancer become available.

The 25 percent who were unsure of whether to accept a cancer test were also hesitant about the vaccine, and were relatively young and an ethnic minority.

Co-author Professor David Taylor, from the UCL School of Pharmacy, said: ‘Since the beginning of 2020, most people have focused primarily on the threat of COVID, but as the pandemic progresses, vaccines, drugs and other public health measures are getting better. Cancer is re-emerging as the UK public’s top health priority.

‘The immediate challenge is to reduce the NHS waiting list, yet maintain the confidence of the British public until the next general election, to policymakers in cancer research, prevention and medical and social care reform, despite the economic impacts of Brexit. Progress will need to be restored. and covid.


Some 56 percent of those in that age group opposed more telephone and online counseling, while 24 percent were in favor of them.

And only 46 percent of those aged 18 to 24 wanted more remote appointments, with more than a quarter (28 percent) against them.

Professor David Taylor, a pharmaceutical scientist at UCL and a co-author of the report, said the tendency for online consultations to increase has led to delays in diagnosis.

They told Daily Telegraph: ‘The immediate effect of the pandemic was to delay early diagnosis.

‘Even before the pandemic, Britain’s performance was not at par with the best in the world.

‘There is some evidence to suggest that delaying treatment each month can increase the risk of early death by up to seven percent.

‘Some of it is about patients not presenting, there is concern about their GP being a burden, some about access problems.’

When asked about the NHS, respondents were generally positive as more than a third said that if they or their family members develop cancer, the available NHS care would be world class, and 40 per cent agreed that NHS care Anywhere else would be as good.

Of the total participants, only five per cent felt that their NHS cancer treatment would be poor.

The survey was conducted by Yonder, a research consultancy on behalf of UCL’s Academics.

Co-author and oncologist Professor Mark Emberton said: ‘I want to re-awaken public awareness of the value of early cancer diagnosis and the efforts being made to encourage people to report unusual symptoms to their doctors. I support them, even if they seem minor.

‘But it can only achieve so much without greater investment in better diagnostic services and optimal access to effective new treatments for all stages of cancer.

‘Our research should remind politicians that the UK public wants the NHS to be a global leader in cancer care.’

Doctors say telephone and video appointments allow them to get through to more patients.

Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday in a meeting with Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos in New York) on Sunday night pressed GPs to offer more in-person consultations.

Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday in a meeting with Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos in New York) on Sunday night pressed GPs to offer more in-person consultations.

But critics agree that the pendulum has gone too far and doctors have…


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