The Member of the Senedd for Montgomeryshire has reacted to a Macmillan Cancer Care report published today (February 3rd) that around 3,500 people are “missing” from treatment services since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. Responding, he and his Welsh Conservative colleagues have called for an action plan and a dedicated public awareness campaign by the Welsh Government to ensure that people know that services remain open.
Cancer screening services were paused from the start of the pandemic until the end of June 2020, and the report’s authors – Macmillan Cancer Care – has also said that stronger messaging is needed to inform the public that the NHS is open to get suspected cancer symptoms checked.
Mr George said:
"People have understandably been reluctant to visit hospitals but I am concerned for cancer patients who have had treatments, scans, screenings or appointments postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and I sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one from cancer during this extremely challenging time.
"There has been concern now for months that Wales will face excess deaths from cancer and other diagnosable and treatable conditions. It is vital that we do not win the battle against COVID-19 only to lose the war against cancer.
"It is extremely worrying that there has been a drop in diagnoses and treatment being commenced, and that it could take several years before these vital services return to normal.
"The backlog of diagnoses and commencement of treatments must be tackled by the Welsh Government as a priority through a public information campaign to encourage people to check themselves for signs of cancer, and to reassure people that they must seek treatment if they have any concerns.
"I am particularly concerned that cancer charities such as Tenovus have faced a ‘push back’ from the Welsh Government over a recovery plan for cancer services. The Health Minister has had months to address the potential other pandemic of missed cancer diagnoses and treatment, so, to read that the Welsh Government still hasn’t got its act together over this backlog defies belief.
"It is therefore so important that more services, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are able to resume. I and my colleagues in the Welsh Parliament are calling on the Welsh Government to publish a detailed recovery plan for cancer and other services, and a public information campaign to press home the message that GPs and the NHS in Wales are open for all."