Coronavirus latest: Fears as cancer referrals plunge amid pandemic
Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England, said the restoration of services will work on the basis that Covid-19 is “here to stay” and infection-free spaces will be vital to ensure patients can be treated safely.
MPs were told two week referrals were down by 62 percent and chemotherapy treatments by 30 percent.
Survival A panel of experts were questioned by the Health and Social Care Committee on the impact of the pandemic on core services.
MPs heard that referrals to mental health services have also fallen, while a midwifery expert warned that high-risk pregnancies being missed could lead to a rise in stillbirths and neonatal deaths.
Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said face-to-face appointments were down from 70 percent to 23 percent.
Cancer Research UK has warned around 2,700 cancers are being missed every week due to the drop in referrals and suspension of some screening programmes.
But Dame Cally said it was too early to estimate the effect on diagnoses and survival rate.
She added: “It’s really important to state that urgent referrals and urgent cancer treatments are continuing.”
Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said she was concerned that anxiety has risen among pregnant women.
Some may be too scared to raise problems with midwives and this could lead to a rise in stillbirths and neonatal deaths.
Ms Walton said: “Maternity services are still open and women should come forward.”
She added that expectant mothers from BAME backgrounds should be treated “as more vulnerable than the general population and midwives are fully aware of that”.
Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England, revealed that referrals to its services had fallen by 30-40 percent.
This is partly due to the closure of schools disrupting one common referral route.
She told MPs there was no evidence of a spike in suicides as a result of the pandemic, but its full impact on mental health is not yet clear.
She said: “The truth is we don’t yet know what additional demand will be as a result of this pandemic.
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