Commenting today on the publication today of NHS England’s monthly performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s data is a stark reminder of the challenges the NHS faces in restoring normal service in the aftermath of the initial wave of COVID-19.
'Early diagnosis and prompt treatment of cancer is crucial to saving lives, and delays in referrals and treatment during the pandemic are likely to mean more people being diagnosed later when their illness is further advanced and harder to treat. Despite cancer services continuing during the pandemic, there have been worrying drops in the number of people being referred and starting treatment – 94,000 fewer people were urgently referred for suspected cancer in May 2020 than the same month last year and 9,000 fewer people started a first treatment for cancer.
'By the end of May, 1.5 million people had waited more than 18 weeks for planned hospital treatment – double the number at the end of 2019. The reality is that the NHS will not be able to restart all of its services at once and difficult decisions will have to be made to prioritise those in most urgent need of care. There now needs to be an honest conversation with the public that this will mean longer waiting times for treatment for less serious conditions.'
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