Essential cancer services remain a high priority and the NHS is working hard to ensure that cancer diagnosis and treatment continue in a safe environment

Dr Stuart Baugh, Clinical Lead, Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance

There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for everyone.

The rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and admissions to hospital has created immense pressures on cancer services across Humber, Coast and Vale, just like in other parts of the country.

However, as we continue to respond to the pandemic, essential cancer services remain a high priority and the NHS is working hard to ensure that cancer diagnosis and treatment continue in a safe environment.

I believe the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to strengthen partnership working across the Alliance. Through the development of alternative pathways, triage processes, and the further development of surgical and diagnostic hubs, we are helping to maintain equity of access to treatment for our cancer population.

By sharing weekly and monthly data packs and analysis, we are able to target action across Humber, Coast and Vale to ensure that cancer treatment can continue safely. Collaborative working is also helping us to deliver and develop our plans for recovery and restoration, including a particular focus on understanding and addressing where the gaps in access and outcomes have been further impacted by Covid-19.

One of the most significant impacts of Covid-19 has been a reduction in the number of people coming forward to their GP with suspected cancer. In particular, we have seen a decrease in the number of urgent referrals for lung cancer and an increase in the number of late-stage diagnoses of lung cancer through other routes, such as A&E.

The impact on lung cancer referrals may be partly due to the fact that the symptoms of Covid-19 and lung cancer are similar and as an Alliance, we are working to raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of lung cancer.

In my roles as Clinical Lead for the Alliance and Consultant Respiratory Physician at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, I am extremely passionate about improving the outcomes for lung cancer patients and know that early diagnosis of cancer can often mean treatment is simpler and more effective.

So please, if you have a persistent cough or breathlessness, unexplained weight loss, tiredness and an ache or pain when breathing or coughing, then please contact your GP without delay.

It’s important to remember that the NHS is still here to help you and if you are invited to visit the hospital for an appointment, there are a range of measures in place to make it safer for both patients and staff.

Leo Stevens

Author Leo Stevens

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