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Cancer patients reluctant to bother overworked NHS staff

Henry Bodkin
Patients are not getting help with depression, anxiety, pain and trouble sleeping, Macmillan says - PA

Cancer patients are suffering side-effects of treatment in silence because they are afraid of bothering overworked NHS staff, a new survey reveals.

More than two thirds of newly diagnosed cancer patients questioned by Macmillan Cancer Support said they are not getting all the help they need - estimated to be about 300,000 people across the UK.

About a fifth of the 6,905 people in the survey said the healthcare professionals caring for them seemed to have "unmanageable" workloads.

These patients were a third more likely to have physical and emotional needs that were not being addressed, such as depression, anxiety, pain and trouble sleeping, the charity said.

It fears some patients are reluctant to ask for information or support because they are concerned about the welfare of those looking after them.

"Isolated" patients are struggling to get hold of healthcare professionals, and increasingly turning to Macmillan to express their concerns about staffing levels, the charity said.

Others are prioritising their questions due to long waits for answers, while some do not feel their problems are "big enough" to bother staff with.

Onyeka Abajingin, a cancer information and support adviser on the Macmillan support line, said: "We are taking more and more calls from people with cancer who are coming to us because they are concerned about delays to treatment and a lack of information given by the NHS.

"They also feel like they can't ask over-stretched NHS professionals for advice about common cancer-related issues like nausea and vomiting, fatigue and emotional distress, and when they do reach out, it's really hard to get hold of them.

"They feel confused, isolated and really don't know where else to turn."

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Cancer patients deserve the best possible care and we have tens of thousands more doctors and nurses on our wards since 2010, all working tirelessly to deliver excellent, safe care."