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Concern over 40,000 drop in cancer admissions during first year of Wales’ lockdown

22 Aug 2021 3 minute read
Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

The number of people entering hospitals in Wales for cancer treatment has fell by over 40,000 in the year after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures acquired by the Welsh Conservatives found 142,097 people were admitted to hospital with cancer from April 2020-March 2021, compared to 182,653 for the previous 12-month period, marking a 22% drop.

The party, which is the main opposition at the Senedd, raised concerns that thousands of people who have cancer are unaware of their condition, with each day the illness goes undiagnosed increasing its severity.

Their worries extend to other major non-Covid health conditions as the data also revealed that, between 2019/20 and 2020/21, admissions for:

  • Heart attacks dropped from 5,023 to 4,812 (4%);
  • Strokes declined from 7,391 to 6,973 (6%);
  • Diabetes fell from 3,393 to 3,186 (6%);
  • Dementia descended from 1,090 to 944 (13%); and
  • Mental health conditions went down from 11,716 to 10,188 (13%).

Across all six of these, admissions fell from 211,266 to 168,200, a year-on-year fall of 43,066 (20%). March 2021 however recorded more admissions than the same months the previous year for four of the health conditions, with those for strokes and dementia only marginally behind the 2020 numbers.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS, said that while governments were forced to take “extraordinary actions” in the face of the pandemic the numbers also showed that there are “consequences to lockdowns and our need to confront them”.

“There will be a huge human cost, as well as expense to the NHS, for having to deal with delayed diagnoses on such a large scale, so it is vital the Welsh Government provide patients and healthcare staff with what they need to address them urgently.”


The news follows statistics from June showing 600,000 people are on NHS Wales waiting lists, data revealing the Welsh NHS is 3,000 workers short, and Freedom of Information requests disclosing the £1.3bn spend on temporary NHS workers.

The Welsh Conservatives said that the figures showed a new for a separate Covid inquiry for Wales, a call the Welsh Government has so far dismissed.

“Throughout the pandemic, we urged the Welsh Labour Government to explore other avenues for treating patients such as Covid-light hubs and of course ensuring stringent protocols were in place to reduce hospital-acquired infections that inevitably drained capacity out of the system,” Russell George MS said.

“Sadly, these calls were ignored and dismissed by Labour ministers and as such these serious illnesses will have worsened because of the actions, or lack of, from the Welsh Government.

“This only further shows why an independent Covid inquiry for Wales is such a vital part of ensuring the victims of the virus and lockdowns get answers and justice through proper scrutiny and accountability.”

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2 years ago

More typos, “has fell”. Can we be sure that the drop in admissions is due to these conditions not being picked up? Maybe we are healthier for spending more time quietly or working from home? What are the figures for RTAs, for example? So more analysis needed.

Shan Morgain
2 years ago
Reply to  Heulwen

Excellent point. Some will be because people have been afraid to go out to get tested. But as you say some conditions like heart, stroke, mental, plus many infections, are likely to be better for working from home. Less exposure, less stress, not commuting, less close contact with managerial harassment. Personally I have gained much more control of my diet, living on weekly planned deliveries. (For some mental health is worse if home life is not good.) The Tory’s statement is crude, without reflective analysis. Typical.

2 years ago

How many admissions for cardiac and stroke involve people visiting Wales? That would give a big reduction in numbers last year. Stats are never simplistic.

Shan Morgain
2 years ago
Reply to  Heulwen

Excellent point. The Tory’s statement is crude, without reflective analysis. Typical.

2 years ago

Usual hefty slice of Tory duplicity. However there is considerable anecdotal evidence among neighbours, communities and contacts further afield that people have developed serious conditions that have gone untreated due to barriers to access arising from the Covid crisis. I see it with my own G.P where the defensive procedures have shifted subtly from protecting the public to protecting the staff at the clinic. Yet they leave that clinic every day and go out and mix with family, go shopping etc etc I am not decrying defensive measures but the balance was lost somewhere in the crisis.

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