Warning of ‘cancer deaths tsunami’ as disease claims almost 1,000 more lives at home in lockdown

There have been 950 excess cancer deaths in Scottish homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures show.

The weekly release from National Records of Scotland (NRS), tallies the number of suspected Covid-19 deaths and their location but also looks at how many excess deaths have occurred overall.

Excess deaths are those recorded over and above the five-year average for that week.

Scottish Labour has called for a plan to be put in place to help prevent a potential “tsunami of cancer deaths” after it was revealed almost 400,000 cancer screenings were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Since the 12th week of the year, around the time lockdown was imposed, 950 more people have died at home with cancer than the five-year average.

Between the 12th week of year and the 29th, 2,639 people died at home with cancer, the highest of any setting, compared to the average of 1,689 over the past five years.

Smear tests to check for cervical cancer were restarted at the end of last month and the national screening programme for breast cancer will begin to restart from August 3.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The shocking rise in the number of people dying from cancer at home should be a wake-up call for the Health Secretary and the Scottish Government.

“Cancer remains Scotland’s number one cause of death and I am deeply concerned to see such a sharp increase in the number of people who have died from cancer at home during the Covid-19 crisis.”

He added: “With nearly 400,000 cancer screenings cancelled, we could be facing a tsunami of cancer deaths if services are not urgently restored.

“Everyone has a human right to medical attention. It is vital that the Health Secretary gets a grip of this crisis and takes action to ensure that we do not have people dying at home in pain from cancer without proper medical care.

“The time has come to get our NHS cancer services up and running again and to redouble our screening programme to ensure early diagnoses.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The majority of cancer treatments have continued throughout this pandemic, with any changes made on a clinical basis and in discussion with the patient and clinical team.

“National guidance setting out how NHS boards should prioritise cancer surgery for those most in need was published on June 4.

“Boards are now resuming screening services, with clinically prioritised appointments for bowel screening colonoscopies.

“The cervical screening programme has restarted, with invitations sent first to those who receive more frequent appointments.

“Breast cancer screening will also resume safely and carefully from August 3.”

He added: “Where possible, we want people to get care at the end of life in the place that they feel most comfortable.

“For many people this will be at home with their loved ones.

“During the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who have died at home from cancer but a decrease in hospitals and care homes.

“With Public Health Scotland and the National Records of Scotland, we are engaged in a programme of research to understand the wider impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s population.”

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