On September 13 2022, a screenshot of a tweet claiming that hospitals across the UK canceled treatments for cancer patients on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s memorial servces “as a ‘mark of respect'” was highly popular across platforms:
In the tweet, @BBCLauraKT added “this one is not satire either,” presumably a reference to the account’s usual Twitter activity and bio. The latter indicated that the account was primarily a parody; the bio also made a humorous reference to state-sponsored media flags:
???? United Kingdom state-affiliated media. Chief BBC propagandist. Owns Carrie-shaped pin-doll. Parody. Don’t forget to follow me, I’m hilarious x
The date of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, September 19 2022, was declared a “bank holiday,” a national public holiday in the United Kingdom. On September 13 2022, the day after the tweet, the UK’s Independent published an article about healthcare disruptions related to the memorial service, reporting that cancer treatments were among “non-urgent” appointments that had been canceled, rescheduled, or postponed:
Several NHS trusts have urged all “non-urgent” procedures and appointments” to be postponed, including replacement surgeries, eye surgery, maternity checks and cancer treatments, according to the independent global media platform openDemocracy.
Several patients waiting months for their surgery had their appointment cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
Doctors at one of the London hospitals were told the day of the state funeral [September 19 2022] would be treated as a bank holiday “so please go ahead and start rescheduling patients”.
However, Covid-19 vaccination services and emergency appointments would reportedly continue.
Yahoo News UK published statements from the National Health Service and Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust about anticipated postponements, with at least one exception for emergency services:
A letter to all NHS organisations, sent from NHS England on Saturday [September 10 2022], states: “For patients with planned appointments that may be affected by the day of the funeral, please ensure they are informed in advance of any changes by utilising direct patient communications.
“Where planned appointments are going ahead it will also be important to confirm this is the case.”
Some hospitals have urged patients to wait to be contacted with news about their appointment.
Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Following the announcement of the plans for the late Her Majesty The Queen’s state funeral on Monday September 19 2022, some non-urgent planned care appointments/procedures across Bedfordshire Hospitals will be postponed.
“We will contact all relevant patients if their appointment or procedure is to be re-scheduled. However we must clarify that both hospitals (Bedford and the Luton and Dunstable) will remain open with urgent planned and unplanned/emergency care continuing as normal.”
A September 13 2022 ITV.com article reported that existing backlogs were already causing major concerns for affected patients:
… the announcement has provoked concern among some patients and health professionals, who cite the ongoing NHS backlog and nationwide GP shortage.
NHS England hospitals have been urged to contact all patients who have appointments booked on [September 19 2022], irrespective of whether or not their appointment has been postponed.
It comes at time when there is a record high of 6.8 million people in England on waiting lists, as stretched teams work to clear the mammoth Covid backlog.
The announcement has worried some patients, who voice their concerns on social media.
One person wrote: “Life-threatening illnesses and cancer don’t take bank holidays”.
Another story quoted a man whose wife’s breast cancer appointment was further delayed by a full month, reporting:
Many patients have expressed serious concern. One man said he was “livid” after his wife’s breast cancer appointment for Monday [September 19 2022], which she had been waiting six months for, had been postponed.
“She has a new one in a month. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but that’s a wait that will almost certainly cost lives. This is an obscenity, in the name of the monarchy,” he said.
Not all cancer-related treatments were postponed, however. A September 13 2022 tweet from the verified account of the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre indicated the bank holiday would not interfere with any “clinical services”:
A September 13 2022 Guardian article said decisions about closures and postponements were “devolved” to regional NHS trusts; some elected not to postpone cancer treatments:
Several NHS trusts, including Bedfordshire hospitals and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals, and the Aneurin Bevan health board in Gwent were among the first to confirm the cancellation of planned appointments on Monday [September 19 2022].
Emergency, urgent and cancer services will still go ahead in these areas and others but only a reduced routine service will run.
Operations cancelled include hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, maternity checks and some cancer treatments. The cancellations will add to mounting hospital waiting lists that hit a a record high of 6.8 million people in July, according to the latest figures.
Government guidance says: “Some businesses may wish to consider closing or postponing events, especially on the day of the state funeral, however, this is at the discretion of individual businesses.”
A popular tweet shared to Imgur on September 13 2022 claimed that hospitals throughout the UK were “cancelling appointments for cancer patients on the day of the Queen’s funeral”; the tweet originated from a parody account, which added “this [tweet] is not satire either.” Several British news sources confirmed that several NHS trusts began canceling or postponing scheduled services when the date of the Queen’s funeral (September 19 2022) was declared a bank holiday by King Charles III. The Guardian reported that decisions to cancel or postpone appointments differed from region to region, with some (but not all) cancer treatments unaffected by the bank holiday declaration.