Patients receiving cancer care in Oxfordshire are reminded that safe cancer care is still available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent national survey suggested that getting COVID-19, or giving it to their family, were among the top reasons that people would not come forward with cancer symptoms, along with fears they could be a burden to the health service. We have taken numerous measures at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) to make sure our patients can still receive their care in a safe environment, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. These include designating the Churchill Hospital as a ‘cold’ site, which means that the presence of COVID-19 is brought down to an absolute minimum.
Other measures at the Churchill include:
• Restricting extra visitors to the centre
• Screening questionnaires and temperature checks for all patients and visitors who attend the cancer and haematology outpatient department, day treatment unit (or chemotherapy department), or radiotherapy department, and providing them with masks where appropriate
• Providing appropriate PPE for staff
• Ensuring safe distancing for patients treated in radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and research departments
• Testing for COVID-19 prior to surgery and bone marrow transplant
• Offering telephone and video appointments where necessary and appropriate
• Offering drug deliveries to patients’ homes where possible
• Blood tests in a drive-in facility in a separate location from the main outpatient department, but still on the Churchill site
Nick Maynard, Cancer Lead at OUH, said: “We’ve noticed that people haven’t been attending their appointments, and we don’t want people to miss out on cancer care because of fears around COVID-19. Finding and treating cancer early gives us the best chance to cure it, and ignoring potential problems can have serious consequences now or in the future. Ongoing care and treatment is just as important, as many of these are also curative and can control disease long term.
“We want to reassure people that we have really robust procedures in place to make sure that you receive your care safely. We’ve seen some departments where attendance has dropped quite a lot, like radiotherapy, and we want our patients to feel confident in the fact that they’re in a safe environment and that their treatment can continue as it always did.”
People with concerns or worries about their symptoms of cancer are advised to contact their GP for advice. If you are worried about any new symptoms, then please get in touch with your surgery.
Initial telephone consultations or via video mean people do not necessarily need to go to GP surgeries for check-ups, and if they do need to be seen in person then there will be measures in place to keep patients safe. Waiting to get help could have serious consequences for patients and put a greater burden on the NHS in the future.
People are also reminded that Emergency Departments can still offer urgent medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic, that maternity services at OUH can still offer medical support and advice to women in Oxfordshire, and that stroke services are also still available.