WEST Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper is pushing the government to issue ‘clear guidance to NHS Trusts’ on urgent issues relating to cancer treatment being delayed due to coronavirus-related pressures.
During the last Health and Social Care Select Committee meeting on April 24, Ms Cooper questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock about ensuring that all urgent cancer testing and treatment was being carried out. Despite reassuring words from Mr Hancock, she says that she has since been inundated with emails from across the country evidencing ‘clear inconsistency between what the Health Secretary believes is happening, and the reality of cancer treatment across the UK.’
She says that the emails document harrowing ordeals of patients told by their clinicians that urgent treatment was necessary, only to be still waiting for an appointment for an operation or scan, or even just an update, weeks or months later.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said: “People have had operations cancelled, scans and radiotherapy postponed due to reallocation of resources, staff and theatres. Cancer patients have been left dealing with the unknown, scared that their life is threatened.
“One man reports that he asked for his operation to be delayed a couple of weeks as his daughter was coming from Australia, to be told ‘no, they wouldn’t be comfortable with that,’ yet nearly two months later he hasn’t heard a thing!”
Research by cancer charities has also suggested that despite the government assuring people they are ‘open for business,’ urgent cancer referrals have fallen dramatically.
Experts in the field are now urging the government to identify the cause of this reduction as they are worried that once the lockdown is lifted, there will be a dramatic increase in the number of cancer referrals and people who could have been treated now being considered terminal.
Ms Cooper has vowed to continue to push, saying: “Cancer patients are desperate and want their promised treatment plan completed without further delay. Widespread testing of staff and patients would also give more confidence that treatments are carried out in a safer coronavirus-free environment.
“We cannot keep kicking the can down the road and hoping this problem goes away. The Government need to immediately address this and provide clear guidance to all Trusts and clinicians about the need for urgent cancer treatment to proceed.”