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The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 on the head and neck cancer pathway in the West of Scotland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2022

I Drake
Department of ENT, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow, Scotland, UK
A Rogers
Department of ENT, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow, Scotland, UK
M Stewart
Department of ENT, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow, Scotland, UK
J Montgomery*
Department of ENT, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Author for correspondence: Ms Jenny Montgomery, Department of ENT, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow, 1345 Govan Road, GlasgowG51 4TF, Scotland, UK E-mail:



The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has greatly disrupted head and neck cancer services in the West of Scotland. This study aimed to assess the impact of the first wave of the pandemic on cancer waiting times.


A retrospective review of multidisciplinary team records was undertaken between March and May in 2019 and the same months in 2020. Time-to-diagnosis and time-to-treatment for new cancers treated with curative intent were compared between the study periods, and subclassified by referral pathway.


A total of 236 new cancer patients were included. During the pandemic, pathways benefitted from reduced diagnostic and treatment times resulting from the restructuring of service provisions. A 75 per cent reduction in secondary care referrals and a 33 per cent increase in urgent suspicion of cancer referrals were observed in 2020.


Head and neck cancer pathway times did not suffer because of the coronavirus pandemic. Innovations introduced to mitigate issues brought about by coronavirus benefitted patients, led to a more streamlined service, and improved diagnostic and treatment target compliance.

Main Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of J.L.O. (1984) LIMITED

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Ms J Montgomery takes responsibility for the integrity of the content of the paper


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