The Forgotten ‘C’? The impact of Covid-19 on cancer care.

There has been a significant drop in people seeing their GP, and going on to be referred for cancer tests. Despite promises, efforts and directives from governments and NHS leadership the report demonstrates a disparity between this and the continuing ‘gap’ in cancer care in 2020. These levels were close to returning to pre-pandemic levels in most areas prior to the second wave of COVID but backlogs in diagnosis and treatment have developed, to varying degrees, across the UK. The report highlights the doubts around the ability of the NHS in all nations to meet these challenges and that the level of additional resource needed for cancer services to ramp up capacity may not be in place. This is now particularly true with the second wave of COVID running concurrently with these major logistical difficulties.  

The report looks at the main issues faced by the cancer services in each of the four nations during the pandemic and makes specific recommendations based on analysis of the challenges, however, there are some common general recommendations, and these can be summarised as 

1) Ring-fencing cancer services in light of a surge in Covid-19 cases. This includes no redeployment of staff, no delays to scans, surgery or treatment and no pausing of screening programmes. 

2) Targeted information and communication campaigns to improve the rate of suspected cancer referrals and prevent a surge in late-stage diagnoses 

3) Ensure the principles of personalised cancer care are not forgotten during the pandemic. The role of holistic needs assessments in identifying physical, emotional and practical support needs is just as important now as it has ever been 

4) Governments should commit to providing the additional resource required to increase capacity and reduce the cancer service backlog as soon as possible 

5) Long-term investment is needed to create a sustainable cancer workforce. The strain placed on the entire health care ecosystem by the Covid-19 pandemic  highlights long term systemic challenges for the cancer and wider NHS workforce 

The full report can be accessed here -