CCGs across the country have launched public campaigns to respond to concerns that people are ignoring early signs of serious illnesses, including cancer, due to fears of leaving the house and contracting coronavirus.
Health trusts have reported a ‘significant reduction’ in the number of urgent cancer referrals from GPs to hospitals, with one seeing an 80% drop, according to NHS Providers. Scotland’s interim chief medical officer today voiced similar concerns after a 72% decrease nationally.
This is being viewed as an indication that people are avoiding or delaying contact with their doctor because of fears around the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the slogan ‘Open for Business’, CCGs and GPs are now reminding patients that non-Covid-19 services are still available and the importance of getting medical attention for any health concerns.
Fleetwood GP and Fylde Coast NHS cancer lead Dr Adam Janjua said: ‘Cancer, heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses will not wait for Covid-19 to go away.
‘Life goes on and while we are in lockdown and many things have closed temporarily, some services continue to be of extreme importance.’
The message also includes information about steps practices and hospitals have been taking to improve safety, such as setting up hot hubs and using remote consultations where possible.
However, some are worried about adding an additional burden on an already stretched system.
A brewing problem
RCGP Scotland and Macmillan Cancer Support have warned about delays and cancellations potentially building up a ‘longer term cancer crisis’.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘We know that in many cases, the earlier cancer is diagnosed the higher the chance of effective treatment and a favourable outcome. GP referrals save lives and ignoring symptoms or delaying treatment can lead to avoidable deaths.
‘We can’t stress enough how important it is that patients who have concerns about their health, such as potential cancer symptoms, contact their GP practice during the Covid-19 pandemic.’