Covid-19 Coronavirus

Coronavirus threat impacts cancer treatments and screening

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Local cancer patients undergoing active treatment are to have their treatment plans reviewed by their specialist teams as hospitals reconfigure their services to protect patients from infection, reduce attendances and manage rising demand.

The case-by-case review will mean some patients’ treatment plans may be changed while others are suspended or discontinued. Staff at Noble’s Hospital are linking with specialist teams at various UK hospitals to discuss the best treatment options, and patients will be contacted to discuss their risk and to advise them of the next steps.

Health and Social Care Minister David Ashford said:

‘Each patient’s treatment is unique and decisions will be made on an individual basis by expert oncologists following national guidance.  We have to take into account whether current treatment plans can continue in light of increased risk of infection, pressures being put on the system by the pandemic, and the need for social distancing generally.

He added:

‘These are not easy decisions, and it is not yet clear what treatments we may be able to continue to offer, here and in the UK. The situation is continuing to develop day by day but we will support patients in whatever way we can.’

New guidance from NHS England recommends that some chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments should cease or be shortened and that outpatient consultations be replaced with telephone or telemedicine clinics. The measure is a clinical decision taken in the interests of patients, weighing the benefit of the therapy against the risk to patients with weakened immune systems of contracting, and being able to fight, Covid-19. 

A video telemedicine link has been established between the Oncology Day Unit at Noble’s and Clatterbridge Cancer Centre for clinicians to liaise about patient care, as the situation evolves.

Those attending the Oncology unit at Noble’s for an appointment are asked to call the ward from their car before entering, and no one should arrive without an appointment.

Additionally, endoscopy procedures at Noble’s have been temporarily suspended to reduce the risk of patient infection. Patients currently referred for bowel or upper gastrointestinal investigations will have their case reviewed by a consultant, and telephone consultations will be offered where appropriate.

The Island’s breast screening programme has also been temporarily suspended. This follows a decision by the Greater Manchester Breast Screening Programme to suspend its services during the current outbreak.

The Greater Manchester operation administers the Isle of Man’s breast screening programme, providing letters and reporting, therefore the local imaging service cannot run. It is not possible to say at present when appointments will be rebooked.

Patients who have been recalled to a second assessment following their recent breast screening should attend as per their appointment letter. Patients with queries can call +44 1624 642570 to leave a message and a member of the screening team will call them back.

Patients with questions about their revised cancer treatment plan should contact their clinical nurse specialist, and anyone who is concerned about potential symptoms of cancer should contact their GP as usual for advice and support.

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