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Cancer backlog could take a decade to clear.


It may take more than a decade to clear the backlog in patients requiring specialist treatment for cancer-treatment in England, a report suggests.

Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research  (IPPR) estimated that 19,500 people have not been diagnosed when they should have been, because of missed referrals.

The report says that, if hospitals could increase the number of patients being treated  by five per cent above pre-pandemic levels, it would still take until 2033 to clear the backlog.

However, if the NHS were granted adequate funding for additional equipment and staff so it could increase the number of people being treated by 15 per cent, the backlog could be cleared in 2022.

The IPPR said meeting this target would also depend on on those who have not yet come forward for checks seeking help.

Between March 2020 and February 2021, the number of referrals to see a specialist dropped by nearly 370,000 on the previous year, a 15% fall.

Behind these figures are thousands of people for whom it will now be too late to cure their cancer, the report carried out jointly with the CF health consultancy, warns.

And it estimates the proportion of cancers diagnosed while they are still highly curable - classed as stage one and two - has fallen from 44% before the pandemic to 41%.

IPPR research fellow, Dr Parth Patel, said: "The pandemic has severely disrupted cancer services in England, undoing years of progress in improving cancer survival rates.

"Now, the health service faces an enormous backlog of care, that threatens to disrupt services for well over a decade.

"We know every delay poses risks to patients' chances of survival. Clearing the cancer care backlog before the next general election looks unlikely with the way the NHS is currently resourced, staffed and organised."