Beating bowel cancer together

Open letter to leaders of the four UK nations calls for vital investment in cancer services

Monday 9 November 2020

Nearly 50 cancer charities and the clinical community have signed an open letter to the leaders of the four UK nations asking them to invest in cancer services in the upcoming spending review.
The letter, signed by us and other leading charities, highlights that COVID-19 has had huge impact on already overstretched cancer services. Millions were left waiting for screening and thousands went without a referral for tests. Over 30,000 fewer people started their treatment and most cancer clinical trials were paused. NHS staff have worked tirelessly to give the best care possible, and the situation is improving, but they need more support. 
The letter outlines key recommendations needed over the coming months:
  1. The public must feel confident that if they have suspected cancer symptoms, they will receive a diagnosis swiftly and safely. 
  2. Health systems need to have ‘COVID-protected’ safe spaces so that cancer patients can be cared for with minimal risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  3. There must be frequent and rapid COVID-19 testing for all NHS staff in primary and secondary care.
  4. We need measures in place to maximise service capacity, including use of the independent sector where needed. 
The UK Government’s spending review, which is due to be published later this month, is an opportunity to provide the NHS what it needs to deliver the best cancer care - and for the devolved governments to do the same.
Last month our Chief Executive Genevieve Edwards, wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to raise concerns about cancer services being impacted once again, and to seek guarantees that diagnostics, screening and treatment will continue in a protected environment.
In the letter, Genevieve wrote: “Bowel cancer patients have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, at all stages of diagnostic and treatment pathway. The pausing of bowel cancer screening services has stolen the opportunity of an early diagnosis from many; an issue we highlighted in June this year when we reached one million missed screening invitations in England alone due to the pandemic. That figure is now significantly higher. We cannot, and will not, allow people with bowel cancer to become the forgotten casualties of COVID-19.”
The pandemic has had a massive impact on the NHS, but we urgently need to get back on track with screening programmes, diagnostics and treatment in order to save lives.

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