A geo-demographic analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on urgent cancer referrals using both local and national cancer data

A geo-demographic analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on urgent cancer referrals using both local and national cancer data

 

The impact COVID-19 has had on general society has been immense. The effect on the diagnosis and treatment of other disease conditions, including cancer, has likewise been huge. This was due to the repurposing of healthcare resources to fight against COVID-19 and because of the pandemic lockdowns. The standard procedure in urgent cancer referrals is to refer a patient who has shown at least a three percent chance of having cancer for proper diagnosis. This is for efficient early diagnosis of cancer, resulting in prompt treatment and potentially saving thousands of lives annually. However, studies have shown that COVID-19 national lockdowns in the UK had dire impacts on the rate of urgent cancer referrals with a nadir of more than 70% and 41% drop in urgent cancer referrals and chemotherapy attendance, respectively.

Some scholars suggest that this massive direct impact of COVID-19 on urgent cancer referrals in the UK might take up to 15 years to recover to its pre-pandemic level. Therefore, this study has two aims: one; to explore the geographical dimensions of the impacts of the decline in urgent cancer referrals, e.g., the influences that the proximity to healthcare facilities and transport systems have on the urgent cancer referrals etc. Two; to explore the demographics of patients affected, in terms of age band, sex, deprivation status, ethnicity etc.

This study is important because it will help to shed light on the best approach to adopt for efficient resource redistribution for effective recovery of the urgent cancer referrals subsector of the health services. This will help in the overall recovery effort of the health services to the pre-pandemic level.