Beating bowel cancer together

Diagnostic services continue to be severely impacted by the pandemic – more than 80% of doctors report delays in accessing essential tests

Wednesday 11 November 2020

People with bowel cancer symptoms are facing long delays for diagnostic testing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey of doctors has found.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) asked its members about the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, as well as testing and diagnostic delays and other areas of work.

Almost all of those who responded to the survey (92%) said they are concerned about the impact increasing COVID-19 admissions will have on their hospital’s ability to deliver effective care.

Furthermore, delays in accessing endoscopy tests – one of the most common diagnostic tests for patients, including those with suspected bowel cancer – were reported by 82% of doctors.

Dr Lisa Wilde, our Director of Research and External Affairs, said: “This survey provides further evidence that diagnostic services continue to be severely impacted by the pandemic.

“We’ve heard from many people that the COVID-19 crisis has led to a delay in their diagnosis, which in turn leads to a further wait for appropriate treatment for the disease. Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, and we’re extremely concerned about an increase in deaths from the disease caused by delays to diagnosis and treatment.

The RCP’s survey highlights that GPs making initial referrals have major concerns about delays to endoscopy services, and this needs to change. The NHS has been clear that it remains open for people who are worried they may have cancer, but without better testing capacity the backlog will only continue rise.”

Our Chief Executive Genevieve Edwards wrote to the Health Secretary in October to raise concerns about cancer services being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and to seek guarantees that diagnostics, screening and treatment will continue in a protected environment as the pandemic continues into the future.

And earlier this week, we joined forces with 50 other cancer charities and organisations to ask for investment in cancer services in the upcoming spending review. The open letter said the public must feel confident that if they have suspected cancer symptoms, they will receive a diagnosis swiftly and safely. 

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