Cancer: Third of patients say they received worse care since COVID, Cancer Research UK survey shows

·3-min read

A third of cancer patients say they have received worse care since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, survey results published by Cancer Research UK have shown.

Some 29% of cancer patients due to start treatment during the pandemic experienced delays, cancellations or changes to their treatment, according to the survey.

When asked to rate their overall cancer care as it was before COVID, more than eight in 10 (84%) rated it as 'very good'.

However, almost three in 10 (31%) downgraded their rating since the pandemic hit - with around one in 10 saying they felt their previously 'very good' care had slipped to 'average' or below.

One breast cancer patient said on the day of her mastectomy a surgeon told her if there were no beds she would need reconstruction at a later date.

She said: "I was devastated. Half an hour before surgery a bed became available, and my full surgery went ahead."

The survey also showed 67% of patients felt more 'frustrated' and 62% felt more 'anxious' since the start of the pandemic

Lorraine, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2014, said the pandemic has made her anxiety worse.

"As someone who needs to shield due to being extremely vulnerable, I was terrified at first. I live alone, but I do have family nearby and I have great neighbours, which is just as well because I found it very difficult at first to get home deliveries," she said.

Her treatment was able to continue throughout the pandemic and she has regular chemotherapy via a drip at Hammersmith Hospital every month.

Lorraine added: "I count myself so lucky that my chemo treatments have continued.

"But I am very anxious about the removal of face masks and social distancing. As someone that is vulnerable it feels like the government is putting the needs of businesses and commerce ahead of the safety of people, and this feels like a step backwards."

The survey did discover some reassuring information with most cancer patients reporting positive experiences of COVID-19 safety measures, with 89% saying they had a 'positive' experience of COVID-safe spaces, while 75% marked the option for home and community-based treatment.

Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, Professor Charles Swanton said the NHS has shown "remarkable adaptability and resilience" but patients "faced a lot more uncertainty than usual and last-minute changes to their care".

He added: "Although there are challenges in the health system, it's very important that anyone who has noticed an unusual change in their body, gets in touch with their GP.

"Early diagnosis can make all the difference."

Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

The charity says it is concerned tens and thousands of people are still facing delays to tests and treatments even though monthly numbers of patients starting treatment are similar to, or slightly higher than, pre-pandemic levels.

Chief executive Michelle Mitchell has warned that "for the first time in decades, we're faced with the fact that cancer survival could go backwards.

"COVID-19 hit the health system hard and cancer services suffered as a result, but even before the pandemic struck cancer targets were not being met."

Ms Mitchell added: "I'm asking Sajid Javid to make it his mission to improve cancer survival in this country, by securing long term investment to sufficiently fund the cancer workforce and ensure the NHS has the equipment it needs to diagnose more patients early."

The charity claims without significant improvement to cancer services, the government is unlikely to reach its 2028 ambition of diagnosing 3 in 4 patients at an early stage.

The survey of cancer patients in the UK was conducted from December 2020 to March 2021.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting