REVEALED: Cancer hospital admissions DOWN 40,000 during pandemic in Wales
The number of people entering hospitals in Wales for cancer treatment has fallen by over 40,000 in just one year, sparking fears that the Welsh Government’s strategy for tackling the coronavirus has had unintended consequences.
Figures acquired by the Welsh Conservatives found 142,097 people were admitted to hospital with cancer from April 2020-March 2021, compared to 182,653 for the previous 12-month period, marking a 22% drop.
This has led to concerns that tens of thousands of people who have cancer are unaware of their condition, with each day the illness goes undiagnosed increasing its severity.
The worries extend to other major non-Covid health conditions as the data also revealed that, between 2019/20 and 2020/21, admissions for:
- Heart attacks dropped from 5,023 to 4,812 (4%);
- Strokes declined from 7,391 to 6,973 (6%);
- Diabetes fell from 3,393 to 3,186 (6%);
- Dementia descended from 1,090 to 944 (13%); and
- Mental health conditions went down from 11,716 to 10,188 (13%).
Across all six of these, admissions fell from 211,266 to 168,200, a year-on-year fall of 43,066 (20%).
Breakdowns of monthly figures showed more admissions in the summer months of last year than in 2019 for heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes, suggesting people following up on their concerns. But the trend went backwards as the second peak of the virus returned in the autumn and winter.
There are signs that the numbers will start rising and overtaking pre-pandemic figures, given March 2021 recorded more admissions than the same months the previous year for four of the health conditions, with those for strokes and dementia only marginally behind the 2020 numbers.
The news follows statistics from June showing 600,000 people are on NHS Wales waiting lists, data revealing the Welsh NHS is 3,000 workers short, and Freedom of Information requests disclosing the £1.3bn spend on temporary NHS workers.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS, said:
“We all know governments had to take extraordinary actions to deal with the virus last year, but these numbers show there are consequences to lockdowns and our need to confront them.
“There will be a huge human cost, as well as expense to the NHS, for having to deal with delayed diagnoses on such a large scale, so it is vital the Welsh Government provide patients and healthcare staff with what they need to address them urgently.
“Throughout the pandemic we urged the Welsh Labour Government to explore other avenues for treating patients such as Covid-light hubs and of course ensuring stringent protocols were in place to reduce hospital-acquired infections that inevitably drained capacity out of the system.
“Sadly, these calls were ignored and dismissed by Labour ministers and as such these serious illnesses will have worsened because of the actions, or lack of, from the Welsh Government.
“This only further shows why an independent Covid inquiry for Wales is such a vital part of ensuring the victims of the virus and lockdowns get answers and justice through proper scrutiny and accountability.”
Commenting on news that the UK Government has signed a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech for 35 million more doses of its coronavirus vaccine, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, Russell George MS, said: