75% fall in number of people referred to lung cancer specialists during first wave of pandemic, report reveals

A report compiled by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition highlights the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has had on the NHS and people living with lung cancer. It states that the number of people urgently referred to a lung cancer specialist dropped by 75% during the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis.

It adds that the impact of Covid-19 “spans across the entire lung cancer care pathway”, including screening, diagnostics, treatment, palliative care and research, and estimates that there may be an additional 1,372 lung cancer deaths within five years of diagnosis due to the pandemic.

The report, ‘’Covid-19 Matters’’, was compiled by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) from a meeting and interviews with 45 of the UK’s leading lung cancer clinicians and key patient groups, including Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, British Lung Foundation and Lung Cancer Nursing UK. The UKLCC brings together the country’s foremost lung cancer experts, senior NHS professionals, charities and healthcare companies.

Professor Mick Peake OBE, chair of the UKLCC’s Clinical Advisory Group, said: “Fear of engaging with health services, halting the national programme of lung cancer screening pilots, and restricted access to diagnostic tests have all contributed to a drop in urgent two-week wait GP referrals in England. Government guidance to stay at home with a cough, a key symptom of lung cancer, has also caused further confusion.”

According to NHS England, there were 62,461 two-week wait lung cancer referrals in 2019-20.

The report states that the reduction in referrals will lead to a backlog in outpatient appointments, surge in late-stage presentations and potentially hundreds of additional lung cancer deaths – reversing the progress achieved in lung cancer survival over the last 10 to 15 years.  Between 2005 and 2015, five-year lung cancer survival almost doubled in England from 9 per cent to 16 per cent.

You can read the full report here: