Surgeons have been forced to ‘play God’ by selecting which patients they operate on during the pandemic, leading doctors warned yesterday.
The toll among cancer patients who have missed out on treatment may surpass that of Covid itself, they admit.
Ben Challacombe, a urological surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, said: ‘We may eventually win the battle with Covid and lose the war with cancer.’
Ben Challacombe (pictured) a urological surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London has warned ‘We may eventually win the battle with Covid and lose the war with cancer’
He said many patients were arriving with severely advanced cancer because they had not sought treatment during lockdown.
‘The second resurgence of cancer will come, unfortunately,’ he said.
Calling for a national awareness campaign, he added: ‘We need to just encourage everybody to go and get checked.’
Speaking at a meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine, Mr Challacombe said surgeons have had to agree between them which patients got theatre time.
They quickly realised they were effectively ‘playing God’, he said, and set up committees to decide which patients should take priority.
Those with severe non-cancerous conditions – such as enlarged prostates, gallstones and arthritic hips – have had to wait while those with life-threatening tumours went to the front of the queue.
But those patients with less severe conditions have suffered while waiting for treatment, experts said.
Mr Challacombe who works at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London was speaking at a meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine and revealed surgeons have had to agree between them which patients got theatre time
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told the meeting: ‘The harsh reality is that many patients will have worse outcomes than they should have had if we had not had this crisis and this delay.
‘We have never had to deal with anything like this before.’ He cited official figures which reveal more than two million people have waited more than the 18-week maximum for a procedure.
Professor Alderson said this will have a huge impact on patients.
‘The scale of the problem is unprecedented,’ he said.
Professor Derek Alderson (pictured) president of the Royal College of Surgeon said many patients will have worse outcomes than they should have had if we had not had this crisis and this delay
It comes as figures reveal that more than 1,500 breast cancer patients have been denied reconstruction during the pandemic, and may have to wait years to get a procedure.
The Breast Cancer Now charity said last night women were being forced to live with one breast, no breasts, or asymmetric breasts.
Chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan said: ‘We are deeply concerned.
Reconstructive surgery is an essential part of recovery after breast cancer for those who choose it.’