It could lead to patients facing delays in terms of both diagnosis and treatment.
Yesterday, health chiefs warned that ten million people could be on NHS waiting lists by the end of the year – compared to around 4.2 million people currently.
Medical leaders have warned that hospitals aren’t equipped to deal with a surge in patients.
As the NHS begins to resume normal services, over a million laboratory samples from cancer screening services are expected in pathology labs, and as many as 850,000 delayed CT and MRI scans are waiting to be conducted, the Independent reports.
Maintaining social distancing is one aspect that could pose an additional challenge for medical staff, the NHS Confederation has said.
Professor Jo Martin of the Royal College of Pathologists told the Independent that 97 percent of departments across the country do not have enough pathologists.
She added: “We are about a quarter of the workforce down, nationally.”
It’s thought that the number of people on NHS waiting lists could more than double from its current number
The Independent also claimed that France has twice as many CT scanners as the UK, and Germany four times as many.
The paper added that most pathology lab samples are handled and sent physically to other labs and that it could cost up to £400 million to establish a digital pathology service that might speed the process up.
The NHS Confederation has said it faces an “uphill battle” to get cancer, stroke, and heart care services restarted while also caring for sick and recovering Covid-19 patients.
Back in mid-April, Cancer Research UK warned that around 200,000 people per week were no longer being screened for bowel, breast, and cervical cancers across the UK.
The UK does not have as many CT scanners as France or Germany, it’s claimed.
The charity warned that “there will be a significant number of early cancers left undetected before these programmes can be reintroduced”.
Cancer Research UK also claimed at the start of this month that, according to its own analysis, around 2.4 million people in the UK are waiting for cancer screening.
“Urgent cancer referrals, often known as the two-week wait, have been severely impacted with up to 290,000 people missing out on further testing, which would normally catch up to 20,300 cancers in the same time period,” the charity said in a statement.
Michelle Mitchel, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said that “the NHS has had to make very hard decisions to balance risk … but we’re over the peak of the pandemic now, and cancer care is starting to get up and running again as ‘Covid-protected’ safe spaces are being set up.”
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The BHF has said that thousands of heart procedures have been delayed due to the pandemic.
She added: “To get cancer services back to normal levels while ensuring no-one is put at risk, frequent testing on NHS staff and patients, including those without symptoms, is vital.
“We now need clear national leadership and guidance for the NHS to dramatically increase testing levels.”
Meanwhile, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has estimated that 28,000 cardiology procedures have been delayed in England since the Covid-19 outbreak hit the UK.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director of the BHF said on June 5: “This backlog will only get larger and the patients in need of treatment could get sicker as their care is delayed further.
“As a priority, it is crucial that the number of heart investigations and procedures increases.”
Meanwhile, GPOnline reports that 43 percent of doctors polled by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) said they feared investigation if patients came to harm because of delays and reductions in services following the pandemic.
The MPS has urged the government to “commit adequate resource” to clear up delays in secondary care.