Health leaders at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) have welcomed a sharp rise in the numbers attending cancer appointments following a decline during the pandemic and urge people with concerns to speak to their GP.
The number of cancer referrals in the area dropped to below 70% of the usual amount since the outbreak of Covid-19. Numbers have begun steadily increasing since then but are still 25% below average.
GPs are concerned that people could be missing out on vital early treatment for cancer by not visiting practices and hospitals for appointments due to fear of catching the virus.
The South West currently has the best rate for returning cancer patients in the country and BNSSG has the second best in the region. However attendance levels are still low and anyone with an appointment is urged to attend.
Dr Alison Wint, Clinical Lead for Cancer & Specialised Commissioning at BNSSG CCG said: “We have had a huge problem since the outbreak of Covid-19 with people, who have been referred for cancer investigations not coming in for their appointments. Our administration team has been calling people to reassure them that it is safe to come into hospital but many patients do not turn up even if they say they will.
“We are very keen to see numbers of cancer referrals returning to normal and these early figures are really encouraging, but we still have some way to go and want to reassure anyone who is asked to attend a hospital appointment that excellent measures are in place to protect staff and patients from Covid-19.”
Hospitals and GP Practices have social distancing in place in all waiting rooms. Patients are tested for Covid-19 and asked to isolate before surgery and investigations to ensure that the hospital is as safe as possible.
Dr Wint added: “I would advise everyone who has new persistent symptoms that are worrying you, particularly a swelling or abnormal bleeding, to please speak to your GP who would like to know about it.”
Philip, 51, a builder from South Bristol was diagnosed with testicular cancer during lockdown urges others not to delay taking action if they think something is wrong.
He said: “I knew something wasn’t right after feeling a pain in my abdomen but I ignored it for a few weeks. I was working away from home and I didn’t want to bother my doctor, but the pain got worse and I thought I should get it checked out so I called the doctor and they rang back in the afternoon. After I explained my symptoms I was told I needed to come in for an appointment. Seven days later I had an ultrascan at the BRI and 10 days later I saw a specialist at Southmead. A further 10 days later I was operated on and I’ve since had the all-clear which is really good news.
“I admit I was a bit put off going to my doctor during lockdown because I thought they had enough to deal with but I am very glad I did as it potentially saved my life as it was caught early. My experience in the hospital was very good. It was all very well done and the hospital was sanitised and very well organised and all the staff had plenty of PPE. I was very looked after.
“My advice is if you have any doubts about your health to get it looked into. If it’s safe to go shopping it’s safe to go to hospital.”