The NHS has realised figures showing that some 100,000 patients a month have not been referred for cancer check due to fears of coronavirus.
A total of 106,535 people with suspected cancer symptoms were referred by their GP for diagnostic checks in May – just over half the 200,599 referred a year earlier.
Experts would have expected the total number of cancer tests in May to have risen by about 10,000 year-on-year had Covid-19 not been a factor.
A Cancer Research survey yesterday revealed that a quarter of GPs said that some referrals were being “inappropriately turned down” by hospitals because of a lack of capacity and the reduced number of diagnostic tests being done during the pandemic.
The NHS England figures also showed that the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for all types of hospital treatment increased by 315,755 in a month to 1,448,357.
A&E attendances also stand well below normal levels but the number of people prepared to seek emergency care is increasing.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said monthly referrals were down 47 per cent on a year ago.
She said: “This is yet more worrying evidence of the impact Covid-19 has had on cancer patients and services. While it’s encouraging that the number of urgent cancer referrals has started to recover since the steep decline in April, the latest figures for May are still worryingly low.”