Fear and anger of cancer patient, with months to live, whose chemotherapy was delayed due to strikes

Flora White needs chemotherapy to shrink tumour
Flora White needs chemotherapy to shrink tumour - Flora White/PA

A cancer patient with months to live has spoken of her fear and anger after chemotherapy was delayed by this week’s strikes.

Flora White, 51, was due to have treatment on Thursday but it has been put back by nearly two weeks as a result of the strikes by consultants and junior doctors the day before.

The mother of two began chemotherapy last month, which is required fortnightly to shrink a tumour so it can be surgically removed.

But it has now been set back, after the appointment she was due to have with her oncologist the day before was cancelled as a result of strikes.

Ms White said she felt “angry and upset” after being told that widespread cancellations would delay the treatment which could prolong her life for two weeks.

‘Very aggressive’

“I got told in March it was very aggressive and it’s spread and I only had months to live,” she said.

“Because of what I’ve been through, it’s already scary and they won’t operate until chemo shrinks the tumour.”

Ms White said she was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021 and was given the all-clear after the tumour was removed along with her large intestine. In March this year, she was diagnosed with cancer for the second time after a new tumour was found in her intestines.

She was set to have her fourth round of chemotherapy treatment on Thursday at Kettering General Hospital in Northamptonshire but this was delayed until Oct 2 after her appointment with her oncologist was cancelled on Wednesday,

Ms White said that until she got the devastating news about her own delays she had thought cancer patients would be protected from the impact of industrial action.

“It’s hard to deal with as it is, let alone the extra worry and stress,” she said.

“Your treatment being cancelled and delayed, they don’t understand how they’re affecting some people.”

A spokesman for the Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Due to the ongoing industrial action we had to postpone a number of appointments and operations, based on individual clinical decisions.

“We are truly sorry to anyone affected and are working to reschedule appointments as soon as possible.”

On Friday, junior doctors continue with a sixth round of strikes, lasting until Saturday morning, resulting in the cancellation of tens of thousands more appointments.

Consultants returned to work on Thursday after two days of strikes,  including a co-ordinated day of action with juniors, meaning the NHS could only offer a “Christmas Day” level of service, focused on emergency care.

Further joint strikes are planned for early October, to coincide with the Tory party conference.

‘Against the ethics of medicine’

Earlier this week,  Prof Karol Sikora, a leading consultant oncologist, said it was “against the ethics of medicine” for doctors to strike, as he urged medics to think again.

“If you miss cancer and someone goes for another two years without a diagnosis, it’s as good as leaving someone in the gutter bleeding ... people will die,” he said.

Lord Winston, the fertility expert, also warned of “unnecessary grief” from lost lives. Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC, he said: “It inevitably means that lives will be lost. And I can’t help thinking that almost two years ago, my wife died because we didn’t get an ambulance in time and of course, that sort of thing is going to happen.

“It won’t be exactly like that, but it will be similar, and therefore there is bound to be unnecessary grief and unnecessary, horrendous things happening.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.