The Impact of a Cancelled Medical Treatment During the COVID-19 Era
The delays and cancellations in medical treatment due to COVID-19 may have devastating impacts for years to come. To discover why, read on…
COVID-19 has caused some real issues across the board for everyone, both socially and economically. Arguably one of the biggest impacts of it all has been on our healthcare systems, who are under a huge amount of extra pressure.
Specifically, delayed or cancelled treatments due to the Coronavirus pandemic may have devastating consequences for everyone involved. Because of this, there are huge concerns on how this may impact the country going forward. Many believe that this may lead to an increase in avoidable deaths over the next few years.
To discover some of the specifics of where our healthcare system is struggling, and the impacts this may have on our society, read on…
What Treatments Have Been Delayed or Cancelled Due to COVID-19?
As we’ve mentioned, the Coronavirus has changed the entire medical landscape, so much so that many medical professionals fear an influx of patient deaths over the next few years. This is due to the number of treatments, surgeries, examinations and screenings being delayed, or even cancelled. Some examples of where this is particularly pervasive include:
Delayed Cancer Treatments and Screenings
The most talked about issue amongst doctors and scientists is the huge amount of people who are not getting the proper care for their cancer. On the normal scale of things, about 95,000 people every year have a life-altering operation to remove their cancer. For those who have cancers within the first three stages, these surgeries aim to cure the patient indefinitely.
However, for these individuals who would normally be saved by these surgeries, any delay in surgical treatment could have devastating effects. In fact, it’s thought that even just a few months delay could slash the chances of this surgery being a long-term cure. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, many cancer patients in these situations are experiencing these delays.
Surgeries aren’t the only cancer treatments being delayed, though. For the same reasons, oncological treatments are also being pushed back for those who are experiencing treatment already.
To add to this, pressures put on the NHS means that many unknown cancers aren’t being identified quickly enough either. Concerning research by Macmillan reports that GP referrals for potential cancers were down by 60 per cent in April.
Even in cases where cancer is suspected, delays mean that urgent cancer screenings are being pushed back by around a month; a critical period of time. Because of these delays, the NHS Confederation believes that 10 million people may be waiting for life-saving treatment by Christmas this year.
Altered Treatment for Expecting Mothers
It’s not just cancer patients who are being affected by all this change. For expecting mothers, the picture looks very different to what they may have hoped.
Due to the need to socially distance, and the potential vulnerability of pregnant women, they are heading to the doctors much less than they would normally. Ultrasound screenings are being reduced, and there are no face-to-face antenatal classes.
It’s not just the pregnancy process that is being disrupted, but also the birthing process too. Minimal visitation in the birthing room mean that women are not supported by loved ones throughout the birth.
To top it off, even once the baby is born, parents and family members may have to keep their distance from the new-born. This could have potentially drastic effects on their future relationships.
Delayed Identification of Health Conditions
Pressure on GPs means that, yes, screenings and treatments are being delayed, which could be devastating for those with other serious health conditions. What’s more, it may even lead to illnesses being missed altogether. Such stress on the healthcare system is bound to cause such mistakes.
Delayed Treatment of Mental Health Patients
With or without the Coronavirus, mental health patients are not getting the proper care they need, in many cases. For those suffering from mental health illnesses, COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems already rife within the system. This has meant that mental illness referrals have been pushed back.
What’s more, those receiving treatment already may be unable to continue this treatment. Yes, medication does help, for many, however, therapy is a massive part of the whole process of healing. With social distancing measures having prevented much of this, be it group therapy or one-on-one, fatalities may ensure.
Delaying Life-Changing Surgeries
Finally, it’s not just cancer surgeries that may be delayed, but also any surgery which could be potentially life changing. For example, transplants, or operations on other parts of the body, may be postponed.
What Causes These Treatment Cancellations or Delays?
There are a number of factors for these cancellations and delays of diagnoses and treatments. Some of these include:
· Fears for patient safety: being immuno-compromised due to treatments, illnesses, and surgeries, may put certain patients at risk of catching the virus and dying. What’s more, having too many people visiting the doctors will limit social distancing measures, and cause a greater spread. So, admitting less people to the hospital safeguards against this.
· Patients fearing infection: with the media causing mass hysteria, many people may avoid heading to the doctors, avoiding potentially life-saving diagnoses.
· Shortage of PPE: without the proper PPE, doctors, nurses, and GPs are unable to do their jobs properly.
· Shortage of finance: the NHS are also struggling without the much-needed funds they require to tackle this pandemic.
· Shortage of staff: without the required funds, many hospitals and GP surgeries are struggling to keep up with the demand. This not only means there is less capacity for patients, it may also cause mistakes to be made due to overworking and stress.
· Travel inconvenience for patients: lockdown and social distancing has made travelling far from home quite a challenge. Without a car, which many people don’t have, and with buses being a breeding ground for potential viruses, getting to appointments is tricky for many.
· Phone appointments: the change in the diagnosis procedures may mean that GPs aren’t able to see the signs as they normally would. So, classic symptoms may go amiss.
What Effects Might These Delayed Treatments Have on Patients?
So, we’ve gone through the main delays and cancellations that the NHS are being put through, but what knock-on effects might this have? Some of the main effects we’ve already seen, and will continue to pervade over the next few months, include:
The Effects of Delays in Cancel Treatment
With so many people not receiving the life-saving diagnoses and treatments in good time, this could have a devastating impact on everyone involved. Research shows that there may be a 7.9 to 9.6 percent increase in deaths from breast cancer, compared to pre-pandemic figures. Similar percentages are also predicted for other cancers, including lung, colorectal, and more.
Overall, it’s suspected that these figures may add to an extra 10,700 deaths due to cancer, which could have been avoided. Not only will this have a huge impact on mortality rates, it’ll also have a knock-on impact on the mental health of the population, and thus the available care for mental health patients.
The Effects of Altered Treatment for Expecting Mothers
In terms of women who are expecting babies, or have already had babies, during this time, the impacts are clear. The main issues are that less ultrasounds are going ahead, as well as less one-to-one or group support due to social distancing.
This could mean that potential birth defects, health issues, or unusual baby positioning might be missed by doctors. This could cause the mother and baby to be at risk during the pregnancy, or during birth. What’s more, the lack of face-to-face support could make the pregnancy procedure much trickier, especially for women who have minimal support at home.
The impacts of this don’t stop there, though, as social distancing may also have an impact on the socialisation of babies being born during this time. Skin-to-skin touch is so important for new-borns, especially with their mothers and fathers to help them bond with one another. For parents who may be infected, risking their baby with this contact is too risky, preventing potential bonding early on.
What’s more, new babies are also unable to bond in this way with other family members either. This could have a knock-on effect on children born during this time, effecting their development in the long-term.
The Effects of Delayed Identification of Health Conditions
There are two sides of the coin with this issue. The first, and most obvious, are the physical impacts of not being diagnosed properly for potentially serious medical conditions. Naturally, this delay could exacerbate the issues, causing further complications with them, and perhaps making them incurable.
That said, there’s also the mental health side of this all, for the patients and the doctors involved. Of course, if a patient feels that they’ve been failed by their doctors, and that things could have been different for them, this can be tough. This can also negatively affect the doctors, who may begin to feel guilty and bring these feelings home from work.
Finally, if the issues cause later complications, or even death, there may be legal consequences. Many healthcare professionals have a genuine worry that they’ll be faced with legal ramifications for all this for years to come.
The Effects of Delayed Treatment of Mental Health Patients
The lack of treatment for mental health patients, and the lack of resources for those who require immediate assistance, may cause major repercussions. Namely, these conditions may become worse, causing physical harm to the individual. This may put both the individual at risk, and those around them.
The Effects of Delaying Life-Changing Surgeries
It goes without saying that a delay in life-changing surgeries could cause mortality rates to spike. This is likely to have a lasting impact on the individual’s mental health before their death, and the families and their mental health for years to come.
Have You Been Affected by Delayed or Cancelled Treatments?
Clearly, the impact of the Coronavirus is still not past us yet. We may be seeing the effects of this universal challenge for years to come, which is why it’s important we’re prepared.
If you think you may have been affected by a delay or cancellation in healthcare, you are entitled to claim for this. Be sure to seek legal help if you think your welfare and physical health has been affected by this.
Otherwise, be sure to share your stories about this, or any tips you may have for others in these situations, in the comments down below.