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Cancer patient urges others who are concerned they have the disease to seek medical help

Thursday, 09 July, 2020
Cancer patient urges others who are concerned they have the disease to seek medical help

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been transforming its sites to ensure that they are Covid safe in its latest move to reassure the public.

The health trust is urging patients not to delay and to attend their planned appointments. Now is the time for patients to take charge of their health, and start to seek medical help where it’s needed.


Like other healthcare organisations across the country, the trust continued to provide life-saving services around the clock, but the difficult decision was made to put some treatments on hold so clinicians could deliver care to those affected by Covid-19 while protecting other patients and staff.


One of the postponed services was planned operations, an area that has seen a huge reduction in activity in recent weeks. In terms of numbers, the trust carried out 1671 planned theatres procedures in April 2019 compared with only 186 in April 2020 – that’s an 89% reduction.


During this time the trust has put additional measures in place to support the safe delivery of care. These include hand washing as you enter the hospital or community area, wearing a face covering for the duration of your visit, following the ‘safe distance’ signage to ensure you adhere to the one-way system and thermal imaging as you enter outpatient areas. You will also see staff wearing PPE including gowns, face masks and visors. This is to keep everyone safe and is only a precautionary measure, so don’t be alarmed.


Now that these extra steps have been implemented, some routine surgeries and appointments are starting to resume.


Amanda Walshe, Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at the Trust explains: “We have been working tirelessly to minimise the length of time in which some diagnostic and treatment appointments have had to be stood down. I am delighted that we’ve now established a safe way to ensure that patients can meet with clinicians to have assessments and have life-saving treatment plans put in place where needed.


“If you are concerned about any symptoms you are currently displaying, like finding a lump or sudden unexplained weight loss, see your GP as soon as possible so that you can be referred for any requirement treatment.


“If you have a planned appointment, my plea is that you attend. We know of over 100 patients who have cited Covid-19 as the reason for not attending their appointments – the likelihood is that the actual number is far greater. It’s really sad to see such a huge amount of people falling into this cohort, especially patients who may have a colorectal cancer.”


The trust normally receives about 1500 cancer referrals from GPs a month. In April and May it received an average of 762 referrals each month – almost half of the usual activity.


Amanda Walshe continued: “We don’t want people to end up in a position where they have limited treatment options because they have delayed seeking medical help.’


Patricia Bridges did not delay seeking medical help, and in March she received her cancer diagnosis. The 68 year old, who lives in Whitley Bay, recently underwent a hysterectomy as part of her treatment, and she wanted to share her experience: “I felt really well informed right from the start. Being told that I had cancer in the midst of everything that was going on was a very, very difficult situation. When it was decided that I would need to undergo a full hysterectomy, I had lots of questions, but the staff were fantastic and made sure that everything was answered. The whole experience was absolutely outstanding – I felt so safe when I was inside the hospital. All of the staff wore aprons, masks and gloves when they came in to treat me and they couldn’t have done anything more to protect myself and the other patients.”


Executive medical director at the trust, Dr Jeremy Rushmer, added: “For a short period of time we had to put a pause on certain treatments and appointments, so that we could ensure we could create a safe environment for both patients with and those without Covid-19 infections. This was absolutely the right thing to do in the face of an increasing number of cases from this novel pandemic while we worked out how to deliver care in the safest way. I appreciate this has been a hugely unsettling and difficult time for the wider public, and for our staff too. In the face of this challenge, I am proud to say our staff have truly risen to the challenge and transformed some of our service areas so that they are better than ever before.


“I would like to take the opportunity to thank all staff for their exceptional work over the past few weeks, including those dedicated teams who have spent the past few weeks coming up with a plan so that we can start to open up more of our services to those who need it most. Like Amanda, I would urge you to attend your appointments and rest assured that your safety is at the forefront of everything we do.”


The trust is reminding people to only attend its Accident and Emergency department if they need emergency care, for all other concerns, please contact your GP or 111 for assistance. This means that staff are able to concentrate on providing emergency care to those who need it most.