People in Cheshire and Merseyside who suspect that they may have cancer are being assured by the local NHS that they can still be seen by their doctor for further investigation or treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. This is in response to a national poll that has revealed that nearly half of the public have concerns about seeking help during the outbreak.
The poll also found that one in 10 people would not contact their GP even if they had a lump or a new mole which did not go away after a week, and that getting coronavirus or giving it to their family were among the top reasons that people would not come forward when they have cancer symptoms, along with fears that they could be a burden to the health service.
The Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance has worked with partners and NHS England and NHS Improvement to establish a surgical ‘hub’ model for cancer treatment in the area. The role of the hub is to ensure that patients continue to have access to urgent cancer surgery irrespective of where they live.
While the majority of patients will have their surgery in their local hospital, some patients may be offered treatment in a different hospital and cancer teams will discuss the impact of those changes with individual patients, as and when the need arises.
Dr Chris Warburton, Medical Director at the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, said:
“The NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside has worked quickly and effectively to coordinate the response to Coronavirus, while still ensuring that patients can safely access essential services, such as cancer checks and urgent surgery. This includes rethinking how care can be delivered in different ways, including via telephone appointments and video calls, and how different sites can be utilised in the region to create cancer hubs for those patients who require treatment.
“As always, the NHS is here to help you and we would encourage you to use it when you need it. If you’re currently going through cancer treatment, speak to your doctor. Remember, don’t miss your appointments or delay treatment, as this may have serious consequences down the line.”
Dr David Levy, North West Regional Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement said:
“I’m worried that around a third of people in the North West would delay seeking advice if they have worrying symptoms, that need checking out, because they are scared of getting coronavirus or feel they are a burden to the NHS.
“The NHS and our services are very much still open. If you have any worrying symptoms such as sudden weight loss, a new mole or lump or blood in your urine or poo, then please make sure you seek medical advice as soon as possible from your GP. You can get advice from them online or over the phone. If you need to go for tests, they will let you know, and you must make sure you attend your appointment.
“GP practices and hospitals have introduced new processes to separate COVID-19 cases from other patients and there are strict Infection Protection and Control measures in place. Clinical teams have been working hard to introduce safe pathways for treatment away from COVID-19 patients.
“For many, those symptoms will be something other than cancer and a quicker diagnosis can mean one less worry. If cancer is diagnosed sooner, you can start treatment sooner and there will better the outcome for you. Waiting could mean a late diagnosis, which could be more difficult to treat. Please don’t delay.”
This assurance that patients can still seek treatment for cancer is part of a major national public information campaign launched at the beginning of this week, which is reminding people that they can still access healthcare as they normally would, by contacting their GP, calling 111 or visiting www.111.nhs.uk.