So many hospital facilities across the public and private sectors were requisitioned for the Covid-19 crisis that there are not enough patients to fill them. Medics have warned that a “catastrophic cancer crisis” is unfolding because of delays to treatment. Gordon Wishart, Professor of Cancer Surgery at Anglia Ruskin School of Medicine, has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, urging him to put in place a protected private hospital network to provide “rapid access to diagnosis and treatment for all patients, public or private, with time critical diseases and conditions”.
With thousands deaths heart and over six Prof Wishart, chief medical officer at Check4Cancer, a private early cancer diagnostics provider, said: “We pushed the panic button and there was a knee-jerk reaction when it was thought there would be hundreds of thousands of deaths from Covid and it was very obvious to create capacity for large numbers of people who were expected to develop respiratory problems. However, in the event it seems we are at or near the peak and that capacity has not been needed.
“We have the worst cancer survival rates compared with many of our European neighbours. We are short of cancer specialists and radiologists and have been failing to meet waiting times for years. We are not in a position to cope with any increased demand at the end of lockdown.” Last week the new 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale hospital in east London was treating just 30 patients.
Professor Stephen Westaby, a leading heart surgeon, said: “Why not put Covid patients in that separate facility of the Nightingale so people with heart disease and cancer can go back to regional centres? “If we don’t do this we could see thousands of deaths from heart disease and cancer over the next six months. Their families will never forget this.
Neither China nor Italy stopped treating these conditions despite the chaos there earlier this year. It’s bizarre.”
Statistics from NHS dashboard – an official app next months’ which collects hospital data – shows 40 per cent of hospital beds for urgent treatment are lying empty
Figures unveiled by Mr Hancock last week show there are 2,295 spare critical care beds – more than when the virus was first reported in the country.
Last week the Office of National Statistics reported a huge spike in the number of non-Covid-19 related deaths in the seven days running up to April 3.
An NHS spokesperson said: “As the overall number of coronavirus inpatients stabilises and hopefully begins to fall, it will over the coming weeks and months be possible to begin to release anaesthetists and other key staff from looking after coronavirus patients so that more routine operations can resume in both NHS and private hospitals.”‘We risk thousands of deaths from heart disease and cancer over the next six months.
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