Rise in number of cancer patients admitted to Northamptonshire hospitals as 'emergency cases'
Cancer charity says increase shows 'devastating' impact of coronavirus on cancer care
The number of cancer patients admitted to hospitals as emergency cases in Northamptonshire rose last summer, figures show.
Macmillan Cancer Support said the rising number of cancer patients across England arriving at hospitals via A&E or other urgent routes showed the “devastating" effect of the virus on cancer care.
Public Health England data shows 162 people with newly identified tumours were admitted to hospital inpatient wards as an emergency in the NHS Northamptonshire CCG area in the three months to September.
That was up from 146 between April and June – though it was still fewer than the 209 recorded during the same period a year earlier.
Patients are commonly admitted as emergency cases via A&E, or after an emergency referral by their GP, but can arrive through other routes.
People who have their cancer diagnosed this way are significantly less likely to survive on average as it is often more advanced.
The figures count all invasive forms of the disease except non-melanoma skin cancer, and can include admissions with a suspicion of a tumour.
Including all referral types, there were 717 first inpatient admissions for cancer in the three months to September – down from 969 during the same period in 2019.
It means around 23% of admissions were listed as emergencies, compared to 22% a year earlier.
Across England, nearly 14,500 newly admitted cancer inpatients were emergency cases between July and September, which was more than any three-month period on record.
Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan, said the figures showed “the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on cancer care”.
“So far the Government has failed to show how it will deliver the staffing and resources needed to clear the backlog of people waiting for a diagnosis and treatment,” she added.
“They must urgently put this right so that people living with cancer get the care they need and do not become forgotten amid this pandemic.”
Cancer Research UK said the rising proportion of cancer patients across England who were admitted as emergency cases during the early months of the pandemic was mainly driven by a drop in the number of overall admissions.
It said this was because people were more reluctant to visit their GP during the first wave of the virus, which meant that non-emergency admissions decreased.
“The NHS has worked hard to protect cancer services where possible,” said the charity’s head of policy Kruti Shrotri.
“But it will have to operate well above pre-pandemic levels to make sure people get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible, and ensure we don’t see more people showing up at A&E in the coming months.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Despite confronting enormous pressure, the NHS has continued to treat cancer patients as a priority, with 1.86 million urgent referrals and over 477,000 people receiving cancer treatment between March 2020 and January 2021.
“We continue to urge people to come forward to their GP if they have symptoms and as part of our additional investment in the NHS, an extra £1 billion is being used to boost diagnosis and treatment across all areas of elective care in the year ahead.”