Macmillan Cancer Support says many people are still avoiding critical care due to Covid-19 and is calling for an urgent recovery plan to deal with the backlog once thousands of “invisible patients” come forward.
NHS England data shows 826 people were seen by a specialist at the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer in May – 30% more than in April, when 633 appointments were recorded.
But this was still the lowest figure for the month since 2012, and a 48% drop compared to last year.
A similar pattern was seen across England, where the figure rose by 34% between April and May, to 106,500.
However, this was still 94,000 (47%) fewer than the number seen last May, and the lowest number for the month since 2011.
Macmillan’s Sara Bainbridge said: “We know that many will have been afraid to come forward with symptoms for fear of being a burden on the NHS or catching coronavirus.
“As thousands of these ‘invisible patients’ are diagnosed with cancer and begin their treatment, our cancer services face being under more pressure than ever before.”
At York Teaching Hospital Trust, the number of people starting treatment following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer fell by 30% in May compared to last year.
An NHS spokeswoman said: “Throughout the Covid pandemic, hospitals have successfully and quickly cared for patients urgently referred by their GP, with over 94% of such urgent cancer referrals being investigated within 14 days, and over 65,000 people starting treatment for cancer throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“Urgent referrals are now increasing again as people come forward for a cancer check, and anyone who is concerned about a possible symptom should contact their GP and come forward for a check-up.”