The Covid pandemic is likely to cause another 10,000 people to die from cancer, a study has suggested.
Researchers from University College London said a drop in emergency referrals from GPs last year in the UK resulted in about 40,000 late diagnoses of the disease.
These delays and longer wait times for NHS treatment – fueled by the pandemic – mean thousands will die from the disease ‘significantly earlier’ than would have been the case before the pandemic.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults found that nearly two-thirds of people were concerned about harassing GPs with ‘minor health problems’ because of Covid.
And during the first lockdown last year, the NHS moved GP appointments to online and over the phone to limit face-to-face consultations. No10’s ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ messages kept people from coming forward meaning their symptoms were never investigated.
It comes after Boris Johnson yesterday pressured GPs to offer more face-to-face consultations, amid concerns that too many patients are struggling to see a doctor in person.
Only 57 percent of GP appointments are now personal, compared to 80 percent before the pandemic.
A senior coroner in Manchester concluded earlier this month that a lack of personal care contributed to at least five deaths in the area during the pandemic.
Downing Street said last night: ‘The public may rightly choose to see their GP in person – and GP practices should make that facility available to their patients.’
Charities and politicians are urging the prime minister to act out of fear that cancer and other serious health issues will be missed in remote consultations.
Chart shows: The number of people waiting to see a cancer doctor in the UK has risen from just over 5,000 at the start of the pandemic to nearly 30,000 in June this year
Twenty-three million appointments, face-to-face or not, were also ‘lost’ during the pandemic.
Of the 2,000 people surveyed by UCL, those over 65 — the group most in need of care — were the least likely to want to see their doctor remotely.
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The University College London (UCL) report found that 40 percent of respondents said their lives were changed because people important to them were harmed by cancer.
The survey, conducted in May 2021 of 2,096 British adults, found that 75 percent said that when single blood tests for multiple cancers become available, they want to be tested regularly.
The 25 percent who were unsure about accepting cancer tests were also hesitant to vaccinate and were mostly relatively young and ethnic minorities.
Report co-author Professor David Taylor, UCL School of Pharmacy, said: ‘Since the beginning of 2020, most people have been primarily focused on the threat of Covid, but as the pandemic is better controlled by vaccines, drugs and other public health measures, cancer is once again on the rise. are emerging as the UK’s top public health priority.
The immediate challenge is to reduce NHS waiting lists, but to maintain the confidence of the British public until the next general election, policymakers will also need to restore advances in cancer research, prevention and improvement of medical and social care, despite the economic consequences of Brexit and Covid.’
About 56 percent in that age group were against more phone and online consultations, while 24 percent were in favor of it.
And only 46 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted more remote appointments, while more than a quarter (28 percent) were against it.
Professor David Taylor, a pharmaceutical scientist at UCL and co-author of the report, said the trend of increasing online consultations has led to delays in diagnosis.
He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The immediate effect of the pandemic was to delay early diagnosis. Even before the pandemic, Britain’s performance was not among the best in the world.
“There is some evidence that delaying treatment every month can increase the risk of premature death by seven percent.
‘Part of it is about patients who do not present themselves, are concerned that they are a burden to their GP, part is about access problems.’
When asked about the NHS, respondents were generally positive as more than a third said that if they or members of their family got cancer, the NHS care available would be world-class, and 40 percent agreed that the NHS care would be as good as anywhere else.
Only five percent of the total participants thought their NHS cancer treatment would be bad.
The research was carried out by research agency Yonder on behalf of UCL academics.
Co-author and cancer specialist Professor Mark Emberton said: ‘I support efforts to re-establish public awareness of the value of early cancer diagnosis and to encourage people to report unusual symptoms to their doctors, even if they are less important. seem, very much.
‘But there is only so much that can achieve this without more investment in better diagnostic services and optimal access to effective new treatments for all stages of cancer.
“Our research should remind politicians that the British public wants the NHS to become a world leader in cancer care.”
Doctors say phone and video appointments allow them to reach more patients.
Boris Johnson (pictured during a meeting with Amazon Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos in New York yesterday) pressured GPs to offer more face-to-face consultations on Sunday evenings
But critics believe the pendulum has swung too far and doctors are more likely to miss the signs of a more serious illness if they don’t see someone in person.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: ‘The NHS has been clear to every GP practice that they need to make personal appointments, and we fully support that.
GPs have worked hard to see patients during the pandemic and the number of appointments has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
‘It is true that the public expects to be able to see their GP in person if necessary.’
There have been calls to change the way GP practices are funded to encourage doctors to see patients in person.
The Silver Voices pressure group is campaigning to impose a legal obligation on them to perform in-person surgeries if patients so wish.
Caroline Abrahams of the Age UK charity said older people struggle with telephone triage.