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Safe cancer care still available for patients in Oxfordshire

This article is more than three years old.

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 Rdiotherapy, 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."

Cancer care in Banbury

The Brodey Centre

Similar measures have been put in place at the Brodey Centre at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury.

The centre - which treats people from Banbury and the surrounding areas - provides chemotherapy care and blood transfusion services.

Lisa Aston, a Sister at the Centre, said: "We're really dedicated to keeping our patients safe when we're caring for them at the Brodey Centre. We have measures in place such as screening questions, temperature checks, social distancing, PPE for both staff and patients where appropriate, and enhanced cleaning procedures to minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19.

"We understand why some of our patients may be anxious during this time, but we want to reassure you that the Brodey Centre remains a safe place to receive essential cancer care."

The Endoscopy Department

While the Horton General Hospital treats COVID-19 patients in dedicated, protected areas, there are measures in place in the Endoscopy Department to streamline patient pathways and reduce non-essential contact - meaning that patients can still receive essential care.

By offering this new model the team can still provide endoscopy treatment to patients who need it most, including those who have had a positive faecal immunochemical test (FIT) as part of the bowel cancer screening programme.

The department can also offer endoscopy care for other urgent cases, such as people who have had a FIT, to determine their risk of developing cancer.

Professor James East, Consultant Gastroenterologist, said: "This approach is really great news for patients who need urgent endoscopy treatment. Endoscopy is a major part of diagnosing cancers of the digestive system, and by offering it in a safe environment we can make sure that patients get the treatment they need as quickly as we can.

"Patients are understandably anxious around coming to hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, and designated units are one way to minimise risk and to allay those fears. We call our patients prior to them coming to the hospital to discuss their symptoms and risks, and when they arrive we have robust procedures in place to ensure safe distancing and clear pathways through their treatment."

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 cardiac and stroke patients can still receive help.