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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 4:04 pm, 24th June 2020

The hon. Gentleman is ahead of me in making the points that I was hoping to go on to make. I am not surprised that he has made those points given that he is a Leicester City fan. I am very proud to have Leicester City football club in my constituency— hopefully we will do better next season. He is absolutely right in what he says, because the statistics on cancer are absolutely terrible.

Around 2 million people in England are currently waiting for cancer screening tests or cancer treatment, including chemotherapy. Today, we have a published analysis, which shows that those waiting more than six weeks for diagnostic tests—some of these will be for cancer of course—have increased from 30,000 to 469,000 as a result of the lockdown. Cancer referrals are down 60%, and 1 million people are missing out on breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening. That means that about 1,400 cases of cancer are going undiagnosed every month. In March and April alone, there were at least 500 more deaths from cancer than average, and research from University College London predicts that an estimated 17,915 additional deaths of existing and newly diagnosed cancer patients could occur in England in the next 12 months. That is why resetting our NHS and getting it started again is so vital.

We also know that covid attacks the lungs, so this is an especially frightening time for those with serious asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema. One in four people with COPD have had a regular GP or hospital appointment cancelled, or both. Some 24% of people on pulmonary rehab programmes have had their classes cancelled, and 600,000 people with asthma or COPD have missed their annual review. The more we know about coronavirus, the more we know it is also a cardiovascular issue. Those with cardio- vascular problems are the second biggest group of those with an underlying condition dying from covid now, yet about 30,000 elective procedures for heart disease have been deferred. Referrals to stroke units have declined, and excess stroke deaths in care homes are 39% higher than the five-year average. We are making these points not in a spirit of blame, but to re-emphasise the point that lockdown has come with huge costs and will inevitably mean that people will die or develop long-term illnesses unless there is now a plan to get the NHS up, running and working again.