CANCER patients could face severe delays again this winter if coronavirus continue to soar, Matt Hancock has warned.
The Health Secretary claimed cancer treatment could only be guaranteed if Covid-19 “stays under control” as he was grilled by MPs over the Excel spreadsheet fiasco which led to 16,000 cases being missed.
Mr Hancock told MPs today: “It’s critical for everybody to understand that the best way to keep cancer services running is to suppress the disease, and the more the disease is under control the more we can both recover and continue with cancer treatments.
“It’s beholden on all of us to make the case that controlling this virus not only reduces the number of deaths directly from coronavirus but also enables us as best as possible to recover the treatment that we need to for cancer and other killer diseases.”
Doctors have been warning throughout the pandemic that extra cancer deaths could hit the tens of thousands if the NHS has to turn all over its focus to fighting coronavirus.
Mr Hancock said that the first priority of the health service was to “bear down on the long waits”.
“Because the longer you wait the more dangerous cancer can become, that is happening
“As i say we’ve also got to make sure we bring the referrals forward because we want to make sure we don’t have fewer people referred for the diagnostics.”
The warning comes after Public Health England missed 16,000 cases because of technical blunder, meaning as many as 30,000 contacts of infected people might not have been tracked down in time.
And the number of new cases soared again today to 14,542.
Almost 2.3 million Brits missed out on cancer screening, referrals or treatment at the peak of the pandemic according to Cancer Research UK as the NHS threw all of its efforts behind looking after coronavirus patients.
There has been a 44 per cent rise in patients waiting for waiting for tests to diagnose bowel, stomach, bladder and oesophageal cancer.
And the Royal College of Surgeons has called for hospital beds to be “ring-fenced” for planned operations to avoid the “tsunami of cancellations” during the peak of lockdown.
According to the RCS, the NHS has been unable to meet its target of returning surgeries to 80 per cent of capacity by the end of September.
President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Professor Neil Mortensen said: “As the virus becomes more prevalent again, there is a real risk of a tsunami of cancelled operations unless surgical beds are funded and protected.
“That means building up theatre capacity and designating beds exclusively for those who need an operation.
“These facilities must be kept “COVID-light” with a rigorous regime of testing for patients and staff.”