Cancer treatment must go ahead regardless of the impact of coronavirus on hospitals, health chiefs have said.
The edict comes amid concerns that too many cancer operations and procedures are being shelved by hospitals who are having to deal with an increasing number of Covid-19 patients.
NHS England has sent out a memo telling hospitals that they must give cancer the same priority as coronavirus patients.
It is thought that large-scale delays in cancer operations will lead to an increase in avoidable deaths – and a potential backlash against the NHS.
London’s hospitals have already cancelled hundreds of operations every week since Christmas.
It has been suggested that more than 3,800 cancer patients are waiting longer than the NHS 62-day target for urgent treatment.
The picture is little better across the country as hospitals have no choice but to call off cancer operations as the numbers of sick coronavirus patients swamp intensive care beds.
In her letter, NHS England chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard said it was vital each area maintained as much cancer activity as possible despite record numbers of Covid patients, the Independent reports.
Each area must have a cancer surgical hub established, with cancer surgery consolidated onto Covid-free sites.