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Coronavirus UK: Janet Street-Porter says bureaucrats impede NHS

Covid-19 is a plague affecting millions of people. In the UK, everyone knows or knows of someone who has died and our lives have dramatically changed for the foreseeable future.

This dreadful crisis has brought out the best in the British – while Americans angrily demonstrate for their right to get infected because many value earning money over saving lives – in the UK an army of volunteers are helping the isolated and vulnerable.

Businesses have stepped up to offer their expertise to produce protective clothing and urgently needed ventilators, while restaurants and pubs are offering free food to the needy. All over the UK, communities are coming together to fund raise for ‘our’ NHS.

NHS staff are unquestionably doing a fantastic job and many of them are displaying incredible bravery on the front line. But others could be doing so much more if only the bureaucrats would let them.

The TikTok video of the NHS nurses dancing might be entertaining, but it won’t be so amusing to anyone watching with advanced bowel or breast cancer, who medical experts have decided to temporarily ‘forget’ in the rush to focus on stemming the awful death toll from coronavirus

‘Our’ NHS is in crisis because consecutive governments burdened it with a cumbersome bureaucracy, while key services were underfunded along with front line staff.

Politicians of all parties have backed away from introducing a targeted tax for health care – which most voters agree with. A hapless Health Minister and an army of scientists are currently shambling their way through a crisis, which thankfully appears to be slowing down.

But the fallout from the pandemic will continue for years and result in thousands of unnecessary deaths, people who have never contracted coronavirus.

I’m talking about cancer patients. This week, a study published in the European Journal of Cancer, conducted by three distinguished Universities in London, Belfast and Split, Croatia, concludes that we’re facing a cancer epidemic, with more preventable deaths from cancer than from Covid-19.

A study published in the European Journal of Cancer concludes that we’re facing more preventable deaths from cancer than from Covid-19. Pictured: Nic Murray, who has terminal bowel cancer and has had his treatment interrupted by coronavirus

A study published in the European Journal of Cancer concludes that we’re facing more preventable deaths from cancer than from Covid-19. Pictured: Nic Murray, who has terminal bowel cancer and has had his treatment interrupted by coronavirus

The reason is simple – in the rush to focus on stemming the awful death toll from coronavirus, the UK’s medical experts decided to temporarily ‘forget’ about cancer victims, thousands of people who had already started treatments like chemotherapy.

The NHS big wigs decided to ‘forget’ about the bowel, breast and cervical patients who were waiting for scans to see whether they had the disease and if so, how far it had progressed, people who had already waited months to be referred to specialists by their GPs.

Cancer affects more people in the UK than coronavirus ever will. Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in our lives, according to Cancer Research UK. Four hundred and fifty people die every day from the disease – 165,000 a year.

If caught early, half of those diagnosed will live for more than ten years, and great work in diagnosis and treatment is seeing survival rates increase. Clever campaigning and extensive NHS testing means that Prostate and bowel cancers are no longer an embarrassing secret.

Surely the under-used Nightingale hospitals could be turned into chemotherapy and screening facilities for cancer patients, and some minor surgery could take place in sterile zones?

Surely the under-used Nightingale hospitals could be turned into chemotherapy and screening facilities for cancer patients, and some minor surgery could take place in sterile zones?

A thousand new cases of cancer are diagnosed every day – at least there were in the UK, before coronavirus diverted our attention and all the resources. It’s all very well NHS Clinical Director Peter Johnson urging the public to contact our GP’s if we feel ill or have worrying symptoms, but what then? Pop a couple of paracetamol and hope that a suspicious new lump shrinks of its own accord?

There’s not a single day when I don’t think about cancer and how it has affected the people I love. My sister died of lung and brain cancer, and one of my closest friends is currently battling a rare form of lung cancer, and has had several bouts of surgery. Just before lockdown, a biopsy confirmed I had a cancerous growth on my face. Surgery has been cancelled for the foreseeable future, and so I am worried, even though I was told my condition was ‘not life threatening’.

I cannot imagine the horror for breast, bowel and lung cancer patients whose treatment has been mothballed. Even after lockdown ends, it could take 6 to 9 months for services to return to normal. Experts say a delay in bowel cancer scanning can be a death sentence. So why do we care more about covid-19 than a disease which could affect (and potentially kill) half of us?

Cancer charities say donations have plummeted – all we’re thinking about is coronavirus and fund-raising for the wonderful NHS.

According to leading expert Professor Karl Sikora (a former director of the World Health Organisation’s cancer programme), the NHS’s decision to stop screening, delay surgery, and postpone chemotherapy will lead to far more deaths than coronavirus – over the coming years, as many as 50,000 victims could have had a good chance of life, if they’d been diagnosed and treated swiftly.

According to Professor Sikora, cancer sufferers are ‘collateral damage’ in the current war against the virus.

Surely the under-used Nightingale hospitals could be turned into chemotherapy and screening facilities for cancer patients, and some minor surgery could take place in sterile zones?

It’s scandalous that these facilities remain empty white elephants at a time when cancer sufferers are worried sick about whether their lives are being put at risk. In a nutshell- for many cancer victims, death has inched a whole lot closer.

As the NHS has also co-opted many private hospitals and facilities to cope with the virus, why – now the peak has passed – can’t they be used to resume abandoned cancer treatments?

The TikTok video of the NHS nurses dancing might be entertaining, but it won’t be so amusing to anyone watching with advanced bowel or breast cancer. Cancer victims pay the same taxes as everyone else, so why have they been shunted to the back of the queue for medical services?

If Boris Johnson and co need any help with their plans to come out of lockdown, why not start with the NHS itself? At the moment, ‘our’ NHS is only serving one kind of customer. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk