The COVID-19 pandemic has endangered the lives of thousands of cancer patients in the United Kingdom (UK). Consequently, Cancer Research UK is calling for widespread testing to anticipate and prevent unnecessary cancer deaths. Will a triage system essentially lead to peril for many crucially ill cancer patients in the UK?
Enormous Disruption to Cancer Patients
Cancer Research UK reported in a recent press release that the raging pandemic disrupts cancer provider and research services across the UK. From delays to actual treatment, screening and diagnosis, to profound decreases in patients with reported cancer symptoms, refer to hospitals that the lives of many are at risk. Cancer UK reports that overstretched NHS staff are told to prioritize COVID-19 patients over cancer patients, creating an unfortunate triage situation with two classes of high-risk patients.
COVID-19 ‘Free Centers’ Coming Once Pervasive Testing is in Place
NHS England is actually developing ‘COVID-free’ centers in response to the crisis. Of course many cancer patients need imminent care and the centers need to be COVID-19 free. Hence the UK isn’t ready for this approach because it is only possible with pervasive and frequent testing of NHS staff and patients.
Cancer UK Concern: Imminent & Unmanageable Backlog of Cancer Patients
The next concern faced by Cancer UK involves the growing backlog of cancer patients. Although they acknowledge that NHS works tirelessly, the national health system has been forced to make tough decisions. The good news for cancer patients in Britain: the NHS has agreed to prioritize cancer patients. The looming problem: will the NHS be able to cope with the large backlog of cancer care needed as services reopen unless steps are taken to plan for the future—including COVID-19 testing?
A Promising Sign: the Repurposing of Francis Crick Institute’s lab facilities
One promising sign involves NHS’s push to boost COVID-19 testing capacity. Wide-spread testing represents a fundamental assumption in the path to normalcy in Britain as with elsewhere TrialSite News monitors. Hence NHS has readied Francis Crick Institute’s lab to open up and expand capacity in the effort to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2-based infection. UK Cancer articulates that this represents a positive step in the right direction.
On the importance of a pervasive testing capacity, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and information notes, “The pandemic has left cancer diagnosis and treatment in a precarious position, and one of the ways that the NHS is adapting to ensure patients are receiving vital testing and care is through COVID-19-free’ centers or hospitals. But his won’t be possible without the appropriate testing of all staff and patients.”
Sarah Woolnough suggested, “Already Cancer Research UK has helped to increase testing capacity through the Francis Crick Institute. We want to continue to contribute towards the national effort to beat COVID-19, so cancer patients can receive the care that they need during this difficult time.”
A Silver Lining for Cancer Patients?
Although there is little time to act, if the right provider environments are established—e.g. repurposing centers and executing wide-spread testing programs, some have optimism such as Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UKs chief clinician who declared, “This pandemic is having a major impact on patients suffering from cancer and that the direction is heading is really concerning. Delays to diagnosis and treatment could mean that some cancers will become inoperable. But its not too late to turn this around. Cancer patients shouldn’t need to wait for the pandemic to pass before getting the treatment they need.”
Who is Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK is a cancer research and awareness charity in the United Kingdom and Isle of Man, formed in 2002 between the merger of the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Its primary goal is to reduce the number of deaths from cancer. An impressive organization, they operate with over 600-million-pound budget.