The coronavirus pandemic mobilised Britain’s healthcare profession like never before.

The NHS diverted resources and even called up retired staff to manage the crisis.

But, says leading cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora, that response has had a deadly cost.

He claims the shift of focus on Covid-19 has undoubtedly caused the deaths of many cancer patients that might otherwise have been saved. “Some estimates say a few thousand cancer patient lives could be lost,” he said, “I think you can easily multiply that by ten, it’s far worse than people appreciate.”

Meanwhile, he disputes the official Covid-19 death toll, saying: “I don’t believe it’s as high as 41,000”

Professor Sikora told The Times: “We have almost certainly caused the death of something like 30,000 patients.”

He believes that tens of thousands of cancer patients will have died this year because so many resources were devoted to combatting Covid-19.

Describing the situation as an “unfolding disaster,” the former World Health Organisation cancer chief said a decade of progress had been lost in just eight months and he had never been more worried about cancer care than he is now.

The professor questions the official coronavirus death toll, saying it's good deal less than official estimates and adding "I think a lot of those people would have died anyway within a fairly rapid timeframe.”

Acknowledging that he might be seen as heartless by some, he said that once someone enters a care home they’re unlikely to survive for more than 18 months anyway.

He adds that with modern treatment, many cancer patients can survive for years as long as the condition is spotted early enough.

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However, he says, GPs “shut up shop” during lockdown and diverted worried patients to the NHS 111 helpline.

In the case of colon cancer, he explains, early detection offers a 90% chance of a cure. But he has recently seen patients with advanced cases that he suspects would have been spotted much earlier in any other year.

The professor, who has become a Twitter celebrity during lockdown, says that to a large extent epidemiologists are to blame for exaggerating the potential impact of the pandemic, and politicians have unquestioningly swallowed their advice without doing their own research.

“Cancer is going to be bigger as a killer than Covid if we go down the route of shutting everything down,” he told a friend on Twitter, “If we do that, there are going to be more cancer deaths than Covid deaths.”

His grim advice to the public is “don’t get cancer in 2020.”

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