INTERVIEW: “Cancer referrals are down by two thirds”, Andy Burnham encourages Mancunians to visit the GP 

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has voiced fears of untreated illness after figures show cancer referrals are down by two thirds and A&E admissions are at an all-time low in Greater Manchester. The NHS is still open for anyone who needs it.  

Government and health professionals are concerned that thousands of people with potentially life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer and breathing problems, have not sought help.

The number of people who are visiting A&E and GP surgeries are at an all-time low. NHS England reports the total number of attendances in April to any A&E unit has decreased nationally by 56.6% compared to the same month last year, which is the lowest since records began. 

Andy Burnham states, “There are two reasons for that. The first, people thinking I can’t go because I can’t bother them now because of COVID-19 or people thinking it’s not open to people who have other conditions. Either explanation is obviously wrong. You must go if you need to go, the NHS is open.” 

“What concerns me the most is the figure for cancer referrals. Normally GPs will refer people on a two-week urgent pathway if there’s a lump they are worried about. The numbers which are being referred for cancer is down by two thirds.  

We want to get the message out you must, if you suspect a lump or something you’re not happy with, go to your GP. It’s really important people do that.” 

A study from University College London (UCL) and DATA-CAN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer, suggests that almost 18,000 cancer patients could die in England as a result of the global pandemic. 

Delays in diagnosing new cancers and getting treatment for those who already have the disease could significantly impact survival. 

The Christie is operating as a cancer covid-free hub for patients in the north-west who had previously been treated at local hospitals. 

Greater Manchester Cancer states, “It is important that you seek clinical advice if you have a worrying symptom.  GP surgeries have been advised to offer online consultations and remote triage so that people do not have to attend in person unnecessarily. Please contact your GP surgery directly if you are worried about a possible cancer symptom.” 

There are signs that people are beginning to return to GPs, most of whom are operating remotely, according to Mark Sanford-Wood, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP committee. 

GP practices have introduced safety measures to protect all patients and staff, such as initial telephone ‘triage’ assessments to prioritise certain patients and repeat prescriptions which can be requested online.  

Andy Burnham states, “There’s a worry that we may see more deaths later in the year. 

In a life-threatening situation, people will go to A&E. But it’s those things which need to be picked up on early which are not being picked up so we might see problems in the future.

That’s why the message is clear. The NHS is open, the GP is open, go and see them in the normal way that you would.” 

You can hear the full interview on Roch Valley Radio from 6pm. 

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