In what is a record-breaking statistic for the NHS, almost three million people have been referred for lifesaving cancer checks over the last 12 months.
This represents a 10% increase in checks compared to before the pandemic.
Cancer awareness campaigns – which have had their funding doubled – have been credited with encouraging people to come forward to be checked.
Moreover, the NHS has developed more innovative and convenient ways of ensuring people are checked. These include mobile clinics, one stop test shops and cancer symptom hotlines.
As has been mentioned in a previous BIVDA article, vans have been employed to bring diagnostic testing to at-risk communities. Over 30,000 people each month are benefitting from vans providing vital lung cancer checks. Additionally, a new ‘Man Van’ has been unveiled in London, offering health checks for men, and aiming to diagnose urological and prostate cancers at an early stage.
The vans have visited a variety of locations, including churches and workplaces, to reach community members who are most at risk. These include men of working age and black men; the latter having around double the risk of developing prostate cancer and a higher mortality rate post-diagnosis.
While at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, they have developed pathways to access critical cancer tests earlier and more conveniently, as well as setting up a telephone triage system for certain cancer referrals so that patients are able to speak to their doctors sooner.
It is a considerable feat that even in the midst of the Omicron wave suspected cancer referrals were at 116% of pre-pandemic levels, with 11,000 people being checked daily.
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England National Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “We know the pandemic meant that at first we saw fewer patients, but in the last year GP’s have been referring people for investigation in record numbers and have been working hard to make sure people with worrying symptoms can be seen. The NHS has continued to prioritise cancer care throughout the pandemic”.