NHS England appears to be responding to the growing concerns over delays to cancer treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. NHS England are investing £160m on new “Covid-friendly” cancer treatment.
New Cancer Treatments
The new treatments are supposed to be less intensive on the immune system, and some can be taken at home. This means that cancer patients may be able to avoid being admitted into hospital whilst continuing treatment. It’s believed that these treatments, will mean cancer patients are less susceptible to the risks of Covid-19, due to fewer hospital visits and side effects.
New Pharmaceutical Deal
2,000 NHS patients have already benefited from these new treatments which have been used as “swaps” for existing drugs. NHS have negotiated new deals with pharmaceutical companies meaning more drugs will be available to patients from this week.
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, said: “Since the first case of Covid in England six months ago, NHS staff have fast tracked new, innovative ways of working so that other services, including A&E, cancer and maternity could continue safely for patients and it is thanks to these incredible efforts that 65,000 people could start treatment for cancer during the pandemic.”
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, welcomed the announcement. “This is encouraging news for some patients, who could now go ahead with their treatment, when it might have previously been on hold due to Covid-19. In recent years, successful price negotiations between the NHS and drug manufacturers have significantly improved patients’ access to new cancer medicines, but cancer doesn’t stop because of a pandemic, so it’s fantastic to see this work continuing throughout this difficult period.”
No Such Thing as Covid-Friendly Cancer Treatment
However, the reality may not be that simple. We have reported previously on the potential scale of unnecessary cancer deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although these measures are welcome, they do not address the millions who have missed out on cancer screenings.
Prof Richard Sullivan, Director of the Institute of Cancer Policy at King’s College London, said; “My colleagues in medical oncology and other disciplines have been managing the trade-offs for at-risk patients since the start of this pandemic, and doing this perfectly well. The announcement makes this sound like a ‘major initiative’ which it is not. There is no such thing as Covid-friendly.
“Overall this will be useful for a few people, but really we adapted our protocols. What we don’t know (and will not for a number of years) is what the real impact on survival will be as a result of these changes. Covid-friendly does not mean equivalence. So we will have to wait and see.”
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of cancer is often critical. If you have suffered due to a delay in diagnosis or treatment, speak to our experts to find out how you can make a no win no fee medical negligence claim.