Covid-19 pandemic means as many as '2000 cancer cases a week may go undiagnosed'

Published: 01 May 2020 Radiotherapy

The Covid-19 pandemic has created 'significant challenges' at various points in the cancer pathway and as many as '2000 cases a week may go undiagnosed', according to the SCoR and the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).

In joint evidence to the ‘Delivering Core NHS and Care Services during the Pandemic and Beyond’ inquiry being held by the House of Commons Select Health and Social Care Committee, the two organisations note that, "Even prior to COVID-19, the throughput fell below what was needed to consistently meet national cancer targets, restricted by capacity with respect to both equipment and workforce."

"It is now more imperative than ever to recognise that the optimal delivery of cancer services is fundamentally reliant on the effective working of each of these interdependent pathways and restoration of one without concurrency of the others would be of limited benefit."

Workforce shortages of diagnostic and therapeutic radiographers, clinical oncologists, and radiologists is a serious concern, the evidence notes, and strategies are needed urgently to optimise capacity.  

Radiotherapy services need to be "supported with the appropriate guidance and adequate resources required" to meet tincreased demand.

The Society & College and the RCR say a "co-ordinated, integrated, adequately resourced response is urgently required across all services and sectors involved in the cancer pathway if the rapidly accumulating backlog is to be managed."

"Moving forward," the document says, "in combination with an intensive mass Covid-19 testing strategy, the institution of local and regional sites relatively free of C-19 should be prioritised to provide a sustainable safe environment for continued diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients.

"This may also herald a real opportunity for the development of desirable new models of care possibly along the lines of rapid diagnostic centres, streamlining the cancer pathway and potentially significantly reducing the time from presentation to diagnosis and treatment."

Response with respect to cancer services from The Royal College of Radiologists and The Society and College of Radiographers to a call for evidence from the Commons Select Health and Social Care Committee for the inquiry into ‘Delivering Core NHS and Care Services during the Pandemic and Beyond’.