Far fewer patients begin cancer treatment than pre-pandemic at Shropshire hospitals

Far fewer patients started treatment for cancer at Shropshire's major hospitals in August compared to the same time last year, new figures have revealed.

Macmillan Cancer Support says the continued disruption to cancer treatment caused by Covid-19 is traumatising people six months into the pandemic, as a second wave threatens further setbacks.

NHS England data shows 202 patients started treatment for cancer at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust in August – 89 fewer than the 291 to do so 12 months previously.

But it was still up from the 192 who were seen in May.

Health bosses say there has been a reduction of more than 35 per cent in cancer patients who have been on the waiting list for over 62 days, across the county.

However, they have stressed there have been challenges with some patients who are reluctant to go back to hospital for either their cancer diagnoses or appointment.

Dr Julian Povey, joint chair of Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “It is extremely important that we are able to deliver cancer diagnoses and appointments in a timely fashion so that the best care can be provided to our patients.

“NHS professionals have worked hard to put in place the necessary infection prevention and control measures to ensure people can access essential services, seek medical help and attend pre-booked appointments safely during the pandemic.

“It is understandable to feel concerned during this time but if you have an important appointment scheduled, particularly where delay can pose a risk to your health, you must attend that appointment.”

Across England, 20,200 patients started treatment in August – more than 5,500 fewer than 25,800 a year earlier.

There had been signs of improvement, with the number rising in June and reaching 21,600 in July after a low of 16,700 in May.

But Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the latest figures were “extremely worrying”.

'Critical'

“Disruption to cancer diagnosis and treatment is having a traumatic impact on cancer patients’ lives,” she added.

“The Health Secretary highlighted growing fears that rapidly rising Covid-19 rates could have an impact on the recovery of already fragile cancer services.

“Cancer must not become the ‘forgotten C’ during this pandemic.

"It is critical the Government urgently puts plans and resources in place to increase capacity and protect the NHS from further disruption, as we stare down the barrel of a second wave.”

Of the patients at SaTH who started treatment in August, all but three did so within one month of their diagnosis – meaning it met the NHS target of 96 per cent.

An NHS spokesman said: “Cancer clinicians worked hard to ensure that, despite the disruption and acute pressures from Covid, around 85 per cent of cancer treatments continued during the pandemic with over 246,000 people receiving treatment and more than 870,000 referred for checks since the start of March.

“Cancer and screening services are open, ready and able to receive patients so anyone who is concerned about a possible cancer symptom should contact their GP and come forward for a check.”

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