“If you need urgent treatment, you can get it” – that’s the message from a patient of a local health care trust. Which is urging people not to put off accessing vital services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has seen a significant drop in the numbers of patients attending hospital for cancer treatment.
April 2020 saw just 22 women attend hospital for suspected breast cancer. A stark contrast to the 338 who attended in April 2019.
Other key cancer services have also seen significant reductions including colorectal cancers (78 down from 196). Lung cancers (37 down from 62) and urological cancers (37 down from 94).
Deepak Dwarakanath, Medical Director, said: “We completely understand that people are apprehensive about coming to hospital during the pandemic. But we are urging people not to delay in accessing treatment.
“We’ve put strict procedures in place throughout our hospitals. Such as temporarily stopping visits, and physical distancing measures are evident in all our buildings.
“Anyone who needs to be referred to hospital should come to their appointments. We have options such as virtual consultations for follow ups and reviews. But there are some procedures we need to deliver in person.
“We’re all very concerned about the low numbers of people attending cancer appointments due to the pandemic. We want everyone to be assured that their safety and well-being will always be our number priority.
“No one should be afraid to come into hospital.”
One patient who received successful breast cancer treatment, who remains anonymous, sent the following comment to the Trust’s Patient Experience Team:
“I was getting over unconfirmed Coronavirus when I found a lump in my breast. After a video consultation with my GP I was referred to the Breast Care Unit as an urgent case.
“I was given a hospital appointment the following week.
“When I arrived the hospital was spotless, everything clearly marked and hand sanitiser was available at regular points along my route.
“Despite the Coronavirus situation I felt safe.
“I managed to get a cancellation to have surgery two days after receiving a confirmed diagnosis of breast cancer.
“Throughout my journey everyone, doctors, nurses, radiographers, healthcare assistants and Breast Care Unit staff were so lovely and caring.
“Everyone was friendly, helpful, very positive and sympathetic of my nervousness.
“The speed of the care I have received to date and from everyone involved has been second to none.
“The only thing that worried me was the lack of other patients. Treatment is available if they need it and every precaution is taken where coronavirus is concerned. I think some people believe the world has stopped for other illnesses such as mine.
“However, it hasn’t, if you need urgent treatment, you can get it. I know first-hand.
“The thing I remember most, is the positivity of Val (Val Cross, Lead Breast Care Nurse) and the surgeon when I was first told I had breast cancer.
“That gave me the same positive vibe to continue through my journey and beyond.”