As many as 2,000 people could die because of Covid-related delays in the Welsh NHS, a cancer expert has said. With virus cases rising, Prof Tom Crosby, of the Wales Cancer Network, fears cancer cases missed in the first lockdown may now be harder to treat.
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said it would be "foolish" to have a plan for backlogs before the pandemic is over. But he said work was under way to address the issue with health boards.
Alongside the spread of the virus, medical professionals are very worried about deaths that could occur not because of Covid, but due to the backlog of appointments and surgery it is causing.
BBC Wales Investigates has been uncovering the full extent of the looming problem facing the NHS.
Delays caused by the pandemic are a serious concern to Prof Crosby, who is medical director at the Wales Cancer Network. He said when the pandemic first hit, acute COVID-19 cases became the focus in hospitals at the expense of cancer, cardiac and orthopaedic appointments.
"Some of the conversations we've had with patients in the clinic have been really, really challenging," he said.
"Then there are thousands of patients who have not come through to the system that usually would have. Some of those are going to have had cancer, and they will not have been diagnosed now."
Prof Crosby has been looking at possible outcomes for cancer patients because of delays in diagnosis and treatment.
"We have done some modelling work with England, and it has suggested that between 200 and 2,000 excess deaths will occur as a result of undiagnosed or untreated cancer in Wales," he said.
"I think the effects on cancer services are going to be here for two to three years."
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Source: BBC News, 9 November 2020