Financial Times about the effect Covid had on cancer treatment in Europe

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The coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected cancer care in Europe, with millions of screening tests cancelled and operations postponed. But a few countries have managed to go against the tide, reports the Financial Times. And Sweden is one of them.

According to the European Cancer Organisation, ECO, over 100mn cancer screening test were missed and 1mn cancers were undiagnosed during the first year of the pandemic. A pattern that is common to most European countries, regardless of wealth, writes the Financial Times. In the UK, it is estimated that hospital capacity will need to be increased by 130 per cent for several years to come to catch up. The same situation prevails in Spain, where resources have now been increased for brest screening for women who could not be screened in 2020.

For those waiting for cancer treatment, the outlook is not as good. A study published in The European Journal of Cancer found that six to eight percent of 13,000 cancer patients in France had to wait more than two months for care. A fact that is expected to negatively affect survival prognosis, the researchers conclude.

Karolinska is taking control over the queues

Karolinska University Hospital's Production Director: Caroline Hällsjö Sander

But there are a few countries in Europe that have done well. In 2021 1500 more operations than planned were performed at Karolinska University Hospital. Caroline Hällsjö Sander, the hospital's Production Director, tells the Financial Times that the key is a combination of a collaborative management culture and the advanced use of data that can give precise control over surgery queues. A digital screeen can track a cancer patient's status in real time and ensure that the most urgent cases are prioritised. 

Caroline Hällsjö Sander also mentions that the hospital has set up a waiting list, "the kind that airlines have", which catches patients who are ready for surgery at short notice. This is to avoid empty operating theatres, a not too uncommon sight at the hospital in the past. Even before the pandemic, reception hours were extended, opening up operations both in the evening and at weekends, and surgeons commit to a certain number of operations.

- It's a joint decision on how the hospital should use its resources, a decision that arose from a need. I think we’re in the front line here. It can always get better, of course, but quality-wise we have good results.” says Caroline Hällsjö Sander.