FEWER people in Gwent are being referred to specialists over cancer concerns, a situation common across Wales since the coronavirus pandemic arrived here, new waiting times figures reveal.

The reduction means that further down the line, fewer patients are being treated, and this remains the case despite an improvement since the first wave of coronavirus subsided in the summer.

The figures bear out concerns raised earlier this week in the report of an inquiry by the Senedd's Cross Party Group on Cancer, which calls for the Welsh Government to draw up a national recovery plan for cancer and diagnostic services.

The immediate impact of coronavirus on cancer services in Gwent can be seen in the March and April figures.

In March, 2,416 people in Gwent entered the Single Cancer Pathway, Wales' new cancer waiting times measure, under which patients found to have cancer should receive treatment within 62 days of referral.

But in April, after many NHS services had been suspended or scaled back while efforts focused on fighting coronavirus, just 972 people were referred.

This reduction was mirrored across Wales - and though in Gwent referrals increased month by month, before a reduction in August, they did not recover to pre-coronavirus levels.

Wales' Single Cancer Pathway was introduced on an experimental basis in summer 2019 when in Gwent, 2,499 patients were referred. In June this year however, almost 25 per cent (609) fewer Gwent patients were referred.

Figures for July this year show 26 per cent (771) fewer patients were referred. And though the situation improved slightly in August, the figure was still 21 per cent (494 patients) down on the same month in 2019.


Regarding the numbers of patients treated, deficits are found across Wales from April this year, compared to the same months last year.

In Gwent, monthly treatment deficits between April and September range are between five per cent and33 per cent lower than for the same period last year, though the higher deficits came in April and May, at the height of the first wave of coronavirus, when the resumption or scaling back up of many services had not begun.

Even in September, when the second wave was establishing itself, 11 per cent fewer patients in Gwent were treated for cancer, compared to the same month last year.

Richard Pugh, head of partnerships for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales said many potential patients may now have an undiagnosed cancer and experience complications.

“We need the Welsh Government to put in place a fully-fledged Covid-19 recovery plan for cancer services to make sure the right cancer care remains in place to treat people with cancer when they need it, and to tackle a cancer care backlog that will only continue to grow with every disruption in Wales’ cancer services caused by this pandemic," he said.

He also urged people with symptoms that are concerning them to contact their GP.

Cancer Research UK also wants a cancer recovery plan, its public affairs manager in Wales Andy Glyde, saying: “Even though the NHS has been working hard to keep cancer services running, too many people are waiting too long for tests and for treatment to start.

“Early diagnosis of cancer can significantly improve someone’s chances of survival so it’s vital patients have safe access to health services.

“The NHS remains open for business and it’s important people know they can still see a doctor."