Analysis carried out by Macmillan Cancer Support reveals the impact of COVID-19 on patients waiting to receive cancer treatment


UK cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support has published a new analysis that illustrates the challenges faced by the NHS in coping with the rise in late cancer diagnoses in the UK.

Macmillan estimates that there is a backlog of more than 47,000 people who are ‘missing’ a cancer diagnosis in the UK. Additionally, as the NHS is struggling to keep up with the current number of patients with cancer, 24,000 of those who began cancer treatment during the pandemic in England waited too long following their diagnosis.

Commenting on the findings, Steven McIntosh, Executive Director of Advocacy and Communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Nearly 2 years into the pandemic, there is still a mountain of almost 50,000 people who are missing a cancer diagnosis.

‘Thousands more are already facing delays and disruption as they go through treatment. While hard-working healthcare professionals continue to do all they can to diagnose and treat patients on time, they are fighting an uphill battle.’

Catching up with missing diagnoses

Speaking at Guidelines Live 2021 (30 November–1 December, ExCeL London), Dr Rakesh Koria, Macmillan GP Cancer Lead Kent and Medway CCG, highlighted further data from Macmillan that shows that the NHS in England would need to work at 110% capacity for 13 consecutive months to catch up with the number of people who should have started cancer treatment since March 2020. 

Dr Koria explained that primary care is at the ‘forefront’ of cancer diagnosis, and that improving cancer screening uptake is essential in helping the local population come forward more quickly after the difficulties patients faced in accessing services during the pandemic.

He told the audience that primary care is ‘going to have to catch up and do the best [it] can together’, and that healthcare professionals should ‘make every contact count’ to support earlier diagnosis of cancer in the community.


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