Cancer patients only guaranteed treatment if coronavirus stays ‘under control’
Cancer patients will only be guaranteed treatment if coronavirus stays “under control”, Matt Hancock has warned.
The Health Secretary claimed that it was “critical for everybody to understand the best way to keep cancer services running is to suppress the disease”.
It came as furious hospital bosses warned such messages “could cost lives” by giving the impression they were running a “Covid-only service”.
It comes amid fears that thousands of women could die from breast cancer after almost a million screening appointments were put on hold during the pandemic.
Mr Hancock told MPs that controlling the virus would allow the NHS to “recover the treatment that we need to for cancer and other killer diseases”.
He said: “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.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, was giving a speech at its annual conference moments before Mr Hancock made his comments in the Commons.
He said: “A lot of what’s being said, is just plain wrong. The NHS never provided a Covid-only service.
“We need to be accurate and precise and how we describe the impact of treating Covid patients on broader NHS services.
“Running down the NHS by implying but it has stopped providing normal services is unhelpful.”
NHS Providers insists hospitals still carried out urgent cancer treatments.
Mr Hopson added: “Giving patients the impression that the NHS has to shut up shop for ordinary treatment when Covid strikes is particularly unhelpful and could ultimately cost lives.”
NHS Providers is the membership organisation for hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services that treat NHS patients.
Vital operations were cancelled and patients missed out on potentially life-saving therapy in the spring as tackling Covid-19 became the focus of the NHS.
Screening was paused for around four months and 986,000 women missed their mammograms. Charity Breast Cancer now estimated 8,600 women could be living with undetected breast cancer as a result.
NHS England has said any cancers missed during the screening pause would be at a very early stage, and will likely be picked up as the NHS catches up.
Health Minister Jo Churchill told the Commons the NHS had now “reduced the backlog of delayed breast screening appointments from over 468,000 in June to under 52,000 in September”.
Overall around 2.5 million people missed out on cancer screening, referrals or treatment at the height of lockdown. The full impact of this will only become clearer in the months and years ahead.
The rate of Covid-19 infections across the UK has almost doubled in a week.
The UK-wide seven-day rate currently stands at 125.7 cases per 100,000 people, up from 63.8 per 100,000 a week ago, analysis by the PA news agency showed.
Daily figures showed a further 76 people had died as of Tuesday, taking the death toll over 58,000.
As of 9am on Tuesday, there were 14,542 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
These have trebled in a fortnight – on September 22, there were 4,926 cases recorded.
The leaders of four northern cities wrote to Mr Hancock to warn local restrictions are not working.
Its authors were Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, Cllr Judith Blake from Leeds, Manchester’s leader Cllr Richard Leese and Cllr Nick Forbes from Newcastle.
They said: “The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive.”
Latest weekly infection figures show Manchester’s rate has soared, with 2,927 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 2.
This works out at 529.4 cases per 100,000 people.
Health officials are also expecting Nottingham to be placed in lockdown after a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The city’s infection rate has risen dramatically, with 1,465 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 3 – the equivalent of 440.1 cases per 100,000 people.
This is up from 71.2 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 26.
It comes after it emerged that thousands of positive coronavirus test results last week had not been recorded in England due to a technical glitch and still needed to be reached.
Downing Street said that as of 9.30am yesterday(Tue) 37% of the almost 16,000 individuals concerned were still to be contacted and a survey of their contacts completed.
Latest Office for National Statistics data showed deaths from Covid were doubling every fortnight during September
There were 215 deaths in the week ending September 25, up from 139 the previous week.
A leading Government adviser warned an extended half term should be considered to slow the outbreak.
Prof Neil Ferguson’s modelling, whose modelling triggered the first lockdown, said without action “the NHS will be overwhelmed again”.
The head of Imperial College London’s Covid-19 modelling unit said shutting pubs and restaurants completely in hotspot areas should also be considered.
He said: “So we are in a more difficult position, if we want to keep schools open we have to reduce contacts in other areas of society by more.
“You will have heard measures being discussed across society as a whole such as extended half terms where we try to reduce transmission for a concerted period.
“I think those measures should be considered.”
It came as the Government announced it had purchased a million rapid turn around finger-prick antibody tests.
The UK Rapid Test Consortium (RTC) test provides a result within 20 minutes, without the need to be sent to a lab for analysis.
They will initially be used for surveillance studies so that they do not need to use up lab capacity currently in short supply due to demand from the public for tests.
It was hoped such tests may one day be used to check people before going in to premises such as care homes.
Currently such antibody tests cannot prove you are immune, only that you are likely to have come in to contact with the virus.
Chris Yates, CEO of Abingdon Health, who led the UK-RTC said: “This is a triumph of British business and a breakthrough for UK life sciences.
“We have ramped up production since the start of August and will be ready to deliver the first tests to the Government by early October.”
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