Coronavirus: Hundreds of cancer patients 'could die due to delays caused by pandemic'

31 March 2020, 10:11 | Updated: 31 March 2020, 10:13

Tenovus Cancer Care says cancer services across the country have been put under huge pressure
Tenovus Cancer Care says cancer services across the country have been put under huge pressure. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Hundreds of cancer patients in Wales could die because of delays in treatment and screening due to coronavirus, a cancer charity has warned.

Tenovus Cancer Care says cancer services across the country have been put under huge pressure with resources diverted to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak and staff members off work with infections and self-isolation.

On Tuesday the charity said the Welsh Government should introduce a national plan to ensure vital cancer surgeries can continue and delayed surgeries and screenings are carried out at the earliest opportunity when restrictions are lifted.

Judi Rhys, chief executive of the charity, said: "I've spoken to leading cancer clinicians who believe hundreds, possibly several hundred, cancer patients could die in Wales because of delays in treatment and screening with NHS and private care providers who are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

"Cancer services were already under huge pressure, but now we are seeing a reduction in theatre space for surgeries and fewer available beds in intensive care units, so many people face having their surgery delayed for some time.

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"Highly-specialised staff who normally deliver radiotherapy are being deployed to other areas and chemotherapy treatments are being delayed because of the risk of infection to patients.

"Sick and dying cancer patients who received community-based care also facing serious issues when trying to access their usual levels of care."

Mrs Rhys said people who suspect they have cancer symptoms will struggle to access GPs and diagnostic centres, and said the disruptions meant that assurances given by Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething that cancer treatment would continue during the pandemic was "clearly no longer the case".

She added: "We now need the Welsh Government to set out an honest, clear plan for cancer care for those needing treatment now and in the months ahead."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The safety and welfare of staff and patients is our priority. We are working with the NHS in Wales to ensure urgent treatment, including for cancer, is maintained during the pandemic. We are taking urgent measures to increase hospital and critical care capacity.”

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