Health officials across County Durham are urging people to
contact their GP if they have a symptom they are worried about as
urgent GP hospital referrals for suspected cancer fall by 44%
during the Coronavirus pandemic
The plea is being made amid fears that people with cancer
symptoms are not coming forward as they worry about seeking help
during the lockdown.
Dr Stewart Findlay, Chief Officer, NHS County Durham Clinical
Commissioning Group, said, 'Contracting Coronavirus or passing it
to loved ones are reasons people are not coming forward when they
have cancer symptoms. If you notice something out of the ordinary
you must tell your doctor. The chances are it is nothing serious
but finding it early makes it more treatable.
'We are doing everything we can to protect patients, with
routine GP appointments taking place remotely by telephone or video
call, minimising face-to-face appointments. When someone does
need to be seen, there will have been a shared decision about the
consequent balance of risk between the patient and a member of the
GP team. We are using carefully controlled access into the GP
surgery, with staggered appointment times to avoid waiting in
communal areas and using personal protective equipment (PPE)
to stop the spread of any possible infection.'
A major public information campaign has been launched to
encourage people to contact their GP or 111 if they have urgent
care needs and to go to hospital if they are told they should.
Lives are saved if cancer is detected as early as possible, if
referrals by GPs to cancer specialists for further investigation
are down this suggests people are not coming forward for help.
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust cancer lead
Sue Green, said, 'At the Trust we would usually receive
about 489 referrals over a six week period from GPs for further
investigation if cancer is suspected, that is down to about 215
which is a dramatic reduction. We really welcome the NHS
campaign encouraging people to contact their GP if they have any
symptoms of cancer, unexplained changes to your body such as the
appearance of a lump, blood in your urine, changes to your usual
bowel habits, changes to moles, unexplained weight loss, are all
symptoms that you should see your GP about. More information about
symptoms can be found at www.nhs.uk/cancer .
'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
To support this, the NHS has announced the set up of a dedicated
'cancer hub' in the region to coordinate cancer treatment and
ensure it can continue safely during the pandemic. The 'cancer hub'
will support hospitals across the NHS and the independent sector to
work together to make sure people receive the care that they need.
The 'cancer hub' will be managed from two locations, one in the
south, managed collaboratively by South Tees Hospitals NHS
Foundation Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust
and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and one in
Newcastle, responsible for coordinating cancer treatment at a safe,
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.
Publised 11th May 2020
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