He said that while ongoing cancer treatment was continuing as much as possible, the number of new cases under investigation had dropped significantly.
“Far, far fewer people are coming forward and this worries me because we’d spent an awful lot of time over several years, the time when you were Health Secretary and time that I’ve been, driving up those coming forward for cancer treatment,” he told former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“And that has been brought to a juddering halt by this virus and we should all send a message to everybody who thinks they may have found a lump – phone your GP and you will get safe treatment, even during this virus.”
On Friday, the chairmen of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on cancer and radiotherapy voiced concern about “blanket stoppages” of cancer treatment, which could cause a “double tragedy” of lives lost from cancer as well as coronavirus.
Tonia Antoniazzi, the chair of the group on cancer, said: “Whilst it is true that some cancer treatment is being rightly disrupted because clinicians, in conversation with patients, are making a judgment on whether the treatment is still suitable as it would increase the risk of infection to Covid-19, far too many blanket stoppages of treatment are still occurring.
“We could be about to see the double tragedy of a large loss of life to Covid being followed by further loss of life to cancer.”
Tim Farron, the chair of the group on radiotherapy, said, “A catastrophic cancer crisis is unfolding right now. I fear that the Secretary of State is being shielded from this information as, if he was aware of it, I’m sure that he would act.
“The majority of these so called ‘collateral’ cancer deaths are avoidable.”
Former World Health Organisation director Professor Anthony Costello has said the first coronavirus wave could see 40,000 deaths yet still have as little as 10 per cent of the population infected and developing immunity.
He said it could take several more waves of the virus to get to the level of 60 per cent that could bring herd immunity.
Earlier, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said it could take years to see the death toll caused by the lockdown and reduced access to healthcare for other conditions. Asked about the likely toll from coronavirus, he said: “What’s the counter-factor? What’s happened to people who normally might have accessed the NHS?
“I’ve been concerned to see some of those numbers falling that may have caused illnesses or deaths which perhaps don’t come to light for months or even years. So I think there will be a lot of factors that we’ll need to look at.”
Last week, NHS figures showed the number of patients attending A&E departments had dropped by more than half since the lockdown was introduced.