Doctors warn of devastating effect on cancer, stroke and diabetes patients facing delays due to pandemic

Doctors warn of devastating effect on cancer, stroke and diabetes patients facing delays due to pandemic

August 5, 2020

DOCTORS have warned of the widespread health impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown on non-virus patients.

A new survey revealed two thirds of senior medics say non-coronavirus patients have been badly hit, with serious delays to diagnosis and care still taking place.

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The study included 1,029 senior doctors and consultants, who took part to shed light on the true extent of the harm suffered by non-virus patients during the UK lockdown.

Their results showed people suffering from cancer, heart conditions, strokes, diabetes and lung disease are among the worst affected by the lockdown.

It also claimed that five months after the pandemic was declared, the majority of doctors are still facing delays when trying to refer patients for cancer or cardiology tests.

More than a third of doctors said their hospitals have started only a “very small number” of the procedures commonly used to diagnose tumours, heart disease, strokes, dementia and intestinal illnesses.

The influential Royal College survey took place over 24 hours at the end of last month.

It found 60 per cent of doctors were concerned patients under their care had come to harm due to delays in diagnosis or treatment.

They were in agreeable that cardiology, cancer, diabetes, care of the elderly, lung disease and illnesses of the digestive system were the most impacted.

Some 94 per cent of medics surveyed also said they were worried about the indirect effects of the lockdown due to patients being reluctant to go to GP's or hospital amid the pandemic.

President of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Andrew Goddard, said its 38,000 members were “gravely concerned” about the deterioration of their patients.

Many are being forced to wait for care during lockdown, which inevitably makes treatment far more difficult.

The survey also showed many hospitals are struggling to resume normal services amid strict infection controls.

These precautions mean only a limited number of scans can take place each day as machines and rooms are thoroughly cleaned between patients.

The government has promised to return the NHS to normality and ensure the correct care for non-virus patients.

But medics have responded to the claims, saying they believe it will take many months to clear lengthy waiting lists built up during lockdown.

Separate research by Leeds University showed deaths from the most common type of heart attack rose by nearly 39 per cent in the first month of lockdown. 

Study author Dr Jianhua Wu said the findings suggested “a lot of very ill people were not seeking emergency treatment”.

Nearly half of doctors surveyed by the Royal College said the NHS would take more than two years to hit its waiting time target for routine operations such as hip and knee replacements, hernia surgery and cataracts.

Professor Goddard, a consultant in gastroenterology at the Royal Derby Hospital, said: “Doctors are understandably gravely concerned that their patients’ health will have deteriorated to the point where they will need much more extensive treatment than previously, at a time when NHS resources are already incredibly depleted. “

The professor added: “The impact on Covid is going to take years to get sorted and it is a big, big worry.”

An NHS spokesman said: “Alongside responding rapidly to coronavirus and ensuring over 100,000 patients could receive hospital care, NHS staff also provided more than five million urgent tests, checks and treatments during the peak of the virus, and local teams have already made significant progress in bringing back those services in a way that is safe for patients and staff.”

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