Beating bowel cancer together

Scaling back of health services in Wales could lead to worse outcomes for cancer patients

Friday 11 December 2020

A decision by Wales' Minister for Health and Social Services to allow the country's NHS to scale back some elective and non-essential services could lead to an increase in waiting times and potentially worse outcomes for cancer patients.

A written statement from Vaughan Gething yesterday (10 December), gave NHS services in Wales the green light to scale back some services to cope with the increased demand COVID-19 is placing on hospitals.

The Welsh Government has approved a framework of actions, which local NHS organisations can take to scale back on routine care, to ensure their hospitals do not become overwhelmed in the current wave of the pandemic.

Mr Gething said: "As transmission rises, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the fragile balance between providing care to those who require hospitalisation because of COVID-19 and the delivery of essential, non-COVID services."

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: "We understand we're in incredibly challenging times, and we're thinking of NHS colleagues across the country who are having to make difficult, and often heartbreaking, decisions about the treatment and care they deliver.

"However, we're deeply concerned that elective surgery and diagnostics – including endoscopy procedures, which can diagnose bowel cancer – are highlighted as services which could be scaled back. The Welsh Government's own framework acknowledges that this could lead to increased waiting times, potential missed diagnosis, significant risk of harm and potentially worse outcomes for cancer patients.

"More than 2,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in Wales, and around 14,600
living there today have been diagnosed with the disease. We cannot allow these people to become the forgotten casualties of the pandemic, and urge health boards to use lessons learned from the first wave of COVID-19; utilising independent hospital provision where possible and maintaining COVID-secure sites for cancer care."

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo, a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason and a pain or lump in your tummy. If you’re concerned about any symptoms, please to your GP as soon as possible – the NHS remains open for business and your GP will want to hear from you.


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