FIGURES show that the number of people being sent for urgent cancer investigations has risen above pre-pandemic levels.

A new study has shown that more investigations are being carried out by the University Hospitals Trust of Morecambe Bay than before the Covid lockdown.

Macmillan Cancer Support said while an increase in cancer referrals nationally is welcome, more people are waiting longer to be seen – and rising coronavirus rates "risk making this worse".

NHS England data has revealed that 1,381 people were seen by a specialist at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer in September.

This is 16% more than in the same month last year, when 1,195 appointments were recorded.

It has also shown a 44% rise on the 957 urgent referrals in August.

Across England, 200,000 urgent cancer referrals were made in September, 4,600 more than during the same month in 2019.

Macmillan's director of policy, campaigns and influence, Steven McIntosh, said: "Rising coronavirus rates now risk making this worse, in the face of an already significant backlog," he added.

"Tens of thousands of people are missing a cancer diagnosis because of Covid-19, and we know that delays to diagnosis and care can cause untold worry and affect chances of survival.”

In September, 51% of patients were checked for suspected cancer at the University Hospitals Trust of Morecambe Bay within two weeks of an urgent referral, meaning the trust fell well behind the NHS target of 93%.

The month before, 70% of referrals were seen within a fortnight.

An NHS spokesperson said: "The number of people having cancer treatment is now back to pre-pandemic levels and more people came forward for checks in September.

"Local NHS services have put measures in place so that people can continue to be treated safely, including through Covid protected hubs, so our message to the public remains help us help you by coming forward for care."