We must keep our focus firmly on restarting cancer care

We must keep our focus firmly on restarting cancer care 

The past month has seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in many parts of the UK. Parts of the North and North West of England have been put back into lockdown and 14-day quarantines for people returning from international travel have been brought back after outbreaks in many European countries. Whilst it certainly appears that there are clusters where the virus is slightly increasing, we must put this into proper perspective and resist the urge to bring about another lockdown.

There has been one million more Covid-19 tests in July than in June which certainly explains why there are more cases. What’s more, death figures throughout this spike have remained largely stable, suggesting that this is not the dreaded second wave that many are claiming.

It is unfortunate that we are seeing these clusters but the good news is that the situation in Leicester has been brought under control and we should have every confidence that it will be the same for the North. We must remain vigilant and responsible but we also need to avoid overreacting.

We have made very good progress over the past month in trying to get our health service back on its feet. Cancer care services and cardiac care have started to return in much of the NHS, although there is now a huge backlog to overcome. It has been a painstaking process in getting these vital services restarted and we must not entertain any measures that risks those services in any way. This would be a catastrophe for health outcomes and will compound the damage we have already sustained in cancer care services.

The lockdown earlier this year resulted in a 70% reduction in cancer referrals. The majority of new cancer cases are undiagnosed. Whilst the situation is now improving with referrals up, it remains inevitable that the tens of thousands of cancer cases we missed during lockdown will start coming through the system in the coming months – possibly all at once. This perfectly illustrates how important it is for us to maintain maximum service despite rising Covid cases.

We must respond to new cases smartly. Local lockdown measures must not undermine GP practices or hospital services. The track and trace system must be improved. People who think they have symptoms, whether it’s for cancer or anything else, must have the confidence to have it checked.

Above all, we must maintain perspective on new case figures. It evidently does not warrant the fear that we are seeing. We have too much to lose if we overreact. Even if there is a second wave around the corner, our response must be measured and carefully planned. Far greater emphasis must be placed on maintaining maximum service for cancer care and other diseases going forward. And people must be urged to check themselves if they think they have cancer or anything else even if they are in a cluster where cases are increasing. It is only through such measured responses we can come out of this pandemic and a potential second wave without wreaking yet more havoc on public health and our healthcare services.

By Mike Moran, chief executive officer, Rutherford Health.