Fewer patients starting cancer treatment in East Lancashire since pandemic

Far fewer patients started treatment for cancer at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust in August compared to the same time last year, new figures reveal.
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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 144 patients started treatment for cancer at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust in August – 68 fewer than the 212 to do so 12 months previously.

But this was still up from the 128 who were seen in May.

The Royal Blackburn HospitalThe Royal Blackburn Hospital
The Royal Blackburn Hospital
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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”.

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

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“Earlier this week, 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 East Lancashire Hospitals Trust who started treatment in August, 92.4% did so within one month of their diagnosis – short of the NHS target of 96%.

Across England, 94.5% started within the timeframe, slightly down from 95.1% in July and 96.1% the previous August.

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An NHS spokesman said: “Cancer clinicians worked hard to ensure that, despite the disruption and acute pressures from Covid, around 85% 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.”