Angela Burns MS – the Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister – has warned that Wales could face a crisis in cancer care due to a drop in diagnoses and treatment being commenced.
She made her comments today (May 21), as StatsWales published figures for March and April this year, covering many aspects of waiting and treatment times in Wales.
March saw the lowest number of newly diagnosed patients entering the single cancer pathway since it began in June 2019 (10,031), a figure only nearly matched at the height of winter pressures in December. This represents a decrease of 19.4 percent (2,421 patients) from February 2020.
Mrs Burns said:
“The figures presented are really quite worrying. Concern has existed for some weeks now about the impact the Coronavirus pandemic may have on cancer diagnoses, treatment, and ultimately, the survivability of patients with cancer, something I have spoken on before.
“It’s critical that in the struggle against Coronavirus, we don’t win that battle only to lose the war against cancer and other conditions, and so, I am calling on the Welsh Government to publish a plan to deal with the backlog of treatments and give everyone access to the healthcare they need before it’s too late.”
Also reported in the statistics published today are that A & E attendances were down by 21,683 (34.3 percent) in April to 41,473 compared to March 2020. However, this drop is dwarfed by the 54-percent reduction from April 2019 – when some 90,193 attendances took place – to April 2020.
Mrs Burns added:
“Fewer attendances at A & E departments reduces the pressure on NHS Wales staff, who are working hard to defeat Coronavirus, but patients with health problems should not stay away because of concerns around Coronavirus.
“The advice from medical professionals remains the same: if you feel seriously unwell, then you should still attend A & E for treatment, because a patient presenting with something serious could actually put more strain on resources – and risk their life – by delaying.”
The Shadow Health Minister concluded, saying:
“Next month’s statistics will be key on cancer care, because if there is another marked drop, then it could indicate that people are not going in for treatment.”
Click here for the Shadow Health Minister's previous call for improvements in cancer care during the pandemic.