We must not allow the second wave to get the better of us

We must not allow the second wave to get the better of us.

The government has just announced a series of new measures aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19 after a continuous rise in cases over the past few weeks. Whilst new measures are indeed necessary as we enter a difficult winter season, we must not allow a second wave to undo the progress we have made in restarting cancer services in the last few months.

The first wave and lockdown had a catastrophic effect on cancer services and one that will take years to recover from. Thanks to good decision making and unprecedented collaboration between the public and independent sectors, the collateral damage has been greatly reduced, particularly in cancer care. Cancer centres such as ours remained fully operational throughout the first lockdown and expanded their provision to NHS Trusts who needed extra capacity to treat cancer patients.

Despite a second wave, we must remain on this trajectory and not give in to fear. People must be encouraged to get themselves checked if they think they have a problem and the government should emphasise that other diseases such as cancer and heart conditions remain as much a high priority as COVID.

This is crucial for us to overcome the cancer backlog and prevent us falling into a deeper hole. Cancer Research UK estimates over three million people have missed cancer screenings since March and whilst treatment has ramped up, testing and diagnosis remains painfully slow.

The independent sector is available and ready to help but the public must have the confidence and courage to come forward and deal with any other health issues they may have, whether it’s cancer or anything else. The Rutherford Cancer Centres continue to offer their capacity to NHS Trusts who may need them and it has led to excellent results in the North East and Wales, with vital cancer treatments to NHS patients being administered in our centres. We continue to offer the latest and most advanced treatments to cancer patients, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and proton beam therapy.

We recently hosted the UK Government in Wales Minister, David TC Davies, at our Newport centre, in which we highlighted the crucial role our centres played during the pandemic and emphasised the importance of greater collaboration between the public and independent sectors. The Minister agreed and hailed the power of collaboration during a pandemic. The government must now ensure that it does not inadvertently create fear and panic amongst the public with new restrictions. This could lead to catastrophic health outcomes by people being too afraid to go to hospitals or their GPs to deal with a legitimate and perhaps serious health problem.

By Mike Moran, chief executive officer, Rutherford Health.