22 Jun 2020

#OneCancerVoice: we join charities to call on government to restore cancer services impacted by Covid-19.

Following the coronavirus crisis, there’s danger of a cancer crisis. Today we launch an action plan calling on 10 Downing Street and NHS England to get cancer services back on track.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound negative impact on health and care services across the UK. The pandemic put our life-saving research programmes on hold; many cancer patients have had their treatments postponed; and because people have had less access to GPs and scans, thousands more people with cancer have been left undiagnosed. We urgently need a national plan to recover.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the UK, and prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer. It’s so important that patients are diagnosed as early as possible, that men at highest risk of their cancer progressing are prioritised for treatment, and that we invest in research that will help us find the answers to stop prostate cancer limiting lives. The pandemic has made all of this more difficult.

The pandemic has also made existing health inequalities worse, placing a greater burden on those from deprived communities and those from BAME groups. People from the poorest communities are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and more likely to suffer negative outcomes. This must be considered alongside the fact that black men are twice as likely to get prostate cancer.

People with cancer have also experienced new anxieties during this crisis, with uncertainty about when their treatment and tests might restart, and the risks they face from COVID-19. Around 200,000 people with cancer in England have also been advised to ‘shield’. For many, this has resulted in social isolation, anxiety and other psychological harm. 

Ally Clarke was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer ten years ago at age 60, and says he owes his life to research. He understands the impact the pandemic has on people with cancer, saying: “Just before Covid-19 hit the UK and the world in a big way, I was due to start participating in a new clinical trial to start another new treatment to keep controlling my prostate cancer. I was gutted to find out that it had to be put on hold. Now all my treatment has completely stopped.”

That’s why, along with 25 cancer charities, we’ve developed a 12-point evidence-based plan to begin to address the complex challenges we now face to get cancer services back on track. 

his plan acts as guidance for the government to build a national plan that can make sure men like Ally can continue to access the treatment that can keep them alive. The plan is not just about returning services to where they were, it’s about responding to new challenges we’ll face over the next few years in a way that will help us improve outcomes for everyone affected by cancer. So, as well as getting treatments and research back on track, it includes guidance on public health messaging to inform and protect high-risk groups, increasing and retaining the health workforce, building screening programmes, and much more.

Our Director of Support & Influencing, Heather Blake, added: “Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, but we know that very few of these men have been referred for tests during this pandemic. Until normal diagnostic services resume, many thousands of men risk being diagnosed too late, when the disease has already spread.”  

“Anyone with concerns about their prostate cancer risk should speak to their GP or contact our Specialist Nurses – particularly if they have symptoms or are at higher risk. Men who are most at risk are those aged 50 and over, black men and men with a family history of the disease.”

The 12 steps cover:

  1. Keeping baseline services running
  2. Covid-protected environments
  3. Diagnosis and referrals
  4. Personalised care
  5. Clinical trials 
  6. Supporting the vulnerable
  7. Preventing cancer
  8. Workforce
  9. Screening programmes
  10. Guidance
  11. Innovation
  12. Long-term plan ambitions

Read the full 12 point plan and share it on Twitter and Facebook.