Family of young mum call for the government to put more resources into cancer services
Report by Granada Reports Political Correspondent Lise McNally
The family of a young mum who died from cancer after her chemotherapy was paused due to Covid-19 is calling on the government to return NHS cancer services to normal.
Kelly Smith from Cheshire died from bowel cancer after her chemotherapy was halted through fears of her catching Covid.
Although Kelly did not survive her diagnosis, the young mum's family wants to make sure others do.
Craig Russell, Kelly's step-father, said: "If you lose a loved one, it's tragic, if they're a younger person, it's even worse.
"But then if you think, 'Well, they didn't necessarily have to die' then we need to do something about this.
"There are far too many families still losing loved ones, when it can be avoided.
"I'm not saying we can cure cancer, I wish we could, but obviously not. But there are things that can be done now to give cancer patients the best chance to fight for their own lives. "
They have started a petition which has been signed by nearly 400,000 people to get the government to put extra resources into cancer care.
Research by Health Data Research UK revealed as many as 35,000 people may die of cancer in the next year in the UK because of delays in diagnosing and treating the illness.
It is one year since Kelly's loved ones founded the Catch Up With Cancer campaign, calling on the government to provide a more urgent response to the cancer backlog.
They want a new national plan, with investment to increase capacity.
Craig said: "I would hope [Kelly] would be very proud that we're carrying on the fight in her name, she loved a good fight, and that's how she dealt with her cancer."
The family are fighting for current cancer patients, 1 in 4 of whom have reported disruption to their care during the latest Covid wave.
Studies also show that for every four weeks that treatment is delayed, the likelihood of death increases by 10%.
A leading oncologist has co-founded the campaign with the family, and says the current plan to address the backlog by March 2022 is "not good enough".
Professor Pat Price, from Catch Up With Cancer said: "It couldn't be more important, this is the worst cancer crisis ever.
"So what we need to do - we need to have a minister in charge just like the vaccines, with the power to sweep aside bureaucracy.
"We need investment that's ring-fenced, and a radical, national plan to do this, otherwise this gets worse and worse."
The Department of Health told Granada Reports that they're committed to tackling the backlog in cancer care.
They added: "We're providing an extra £1b to boost diagnosis and elective treatment in the year ahead, and investing £325m in NHS diagnostic machines to improve the experience of cancer patients."
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