As lockdown measures continue, GPs want to send a very clear message that general practices are open and the NHS is still able to provide essential and urgent treatment for cancer.
With health chiefs expecting a back log of patients with potential cancer symptoms they want to encourage people to contact their GP practice if they notice something out of the ordinary and offer reassurance they are doing everything they can to protect patients.
Dr Janet Walker, medical director, NHS Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, said, I can understand why people have not been contacting their GP surgery in recent weeks but it’s important that you speak to your doctor if you have a worrying symptom, the chances are it’s nothing serious but finding it early can make it more treatable.
‘Routine GP appointments are taking place online by telephone or video call, minimising face-to-face appointments. When someone does need to be seen, we are using carefully controlled access into GP practices, with staggered appointment times to avoid waiting in communal areas and using personal protective equipment (PPE) to stop the spread of any possible infection.’
Hospitals are also minimising the risks to cancer patients. Mr Venkatesh Shanmugam, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon and Trust cancer Lead Clinician, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said, ‘We want to reassure people that we have worked really hard to minimise the risk to patients of contracting Coronavirus and that every precaution is being taken to keep patients safe with very clear Covid-19 and non Covid-19 areas in hospital and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to stop the spread of infection.
‘We are offering more appointments and follow up calls by phone or video, reducing the need to go to hospital, something that has proved so popular with patients that we are looking to continue it when the pandemic is over.
‘Some patients are having their chemotherapy at home or having fewer radiotherapy appointments and some may also see their treatment move to a different hospital as we set up a ‘Cancer Hub’ together with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to coordinate treatment.’
The key message from the NHS is, if you need medical help you should still contact your GP practice, use NHS 111 online or call 111 and if you are told to go to hospital it is important that you go. If you are concerned about your health, please don’t put it off, we’ll give you the care you need.