“Have 50,000 cancer cases gone undiagnosed during the pandemic?” Macmillan Cancer Support asked in October. Cancer Research UK have guessed higher. Macmillan added that the country was ‘at a crossroads’, it could take two years to recover, and said shutting down cancer care this winter could cost thousands of lives.
When the nurse sat on the end of my wife’s bed, she was listening to a story, the story of how my left-leaning wife believed in the NHS and how the NHS betrayed her. She always believed the NHS was there for her – only it wasn’t. Over a year ago, she and I had rattled the doors of any medical professional that would listen.
Reactions were varied. One GP said “Nothing to worry about”. Another prescribed antacids for what turned out to be bowel cancer. After an X-Ray in A&E showed a shadow against her bowel, combined with faecal vomiting, she was admitted instantly, only for a registrar in the Surgical Assessment Unit to decide it wasn’t urgent.
Endoscopy was subsequently closed, my poor wife waited months for it to reopen and, from the February when we sought help, it took SIX MONTHS for her to get her first try at chemotherapy. It came too late and she recently passed away at a local hospice.
It took a brave nurse to shake her head and admit “I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident.” There are some amazing staff in hospitals. One support worker spent a good hour getting the knots out of her hair after a stay on the local cancer ward. Equally, there are poor ones, who just shouted “Chair Four” as she went for her chemotherapy. Excess cancer deaths? No, they are not isolated. I’ve spoken to a number of friends with similar stories.
McMillan estimate it will take the NHS at least 20 months to tackle the backlog caused by coronavirus so far. SAGE and Matt Hancock have made the virus their sole goal. But people are still dying out there of other things. Hancock, Whitty, Vallance and SAGE don’t seem either to recognise the problem or care. If they did, this would not be happening.
A further 33,000 cancer sufferers are facing treatment delays over a critical period due to the pandemic, the report said. The situation is worsening. NHS England defended their position and said the appalling forecast didn’t factor in the work of the NHS to bring ‘cancer treatments back to pre-pandemic levels’. Nothing above 80% has been achieved.
This is what happens when politicians are in charge of the health service. It needs to be freed from political control, allowed to concentrate on the Hippocratic Oath and not forced to abandon some causes of death to the benefit of others.
This is what happens when politicians and their advisors lose all sense of balance and perspective. They are effectively making clinical judgements, deciding which conditions matter and which don’t, who will live and who will die.
They are doing this not on the basis of assessment of priorities or medical urgency but on the back of an obsession with a single condition. The claims of policy being determined by the science are tendentious lies and thousands of cancer sufferers will die as a direct result of their dishonesty and refusal to treat voters as adults.
What the pandemic has revealed is that politicians should NEVER be in charge of our health.
Martin Day – Party Secretary, with help from Tony Brown – former colleague and friend.