Cancer services still open for business

Published on 12 May 2020

Doctors at East Kent Hospitals have continued to treat hundreds of cancer patients, despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Medics have been able to continue with operations, as well as treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, for patients with a range of cancers including breast, bowel, gynaecological, head and neck and skin cancer.

Thanks to support from private hospitals including the Chaucer Hospital in Canterbury and One Ashford, where there are no patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, clinicians have been able to operate without putting vulnerable patients at risk.

Andy Nordin, clinical director for cancer services at the Trust, said staff across a range of disciplines and centres had worked creatively to provide the best care for patients.

He said: “Our colleagues in the private sector have been fantastic at stepping up to support us with their facilities.

“We have also been able to use the Kent and Canterbury Hospital for people who need more complicated operations, with the back-up of the wards and intensive care unit if necessary.

"Our own theatre and nursing staff have been unwavering in their support, for example adapting to care for cancer patients rather than orthopaedic cases.

“It means we have not had to stop any of our services, and we would encourage anyone who is concerned they have cancer symptoms to see their GP for a referral.”

All patients coming in for surgery are tested for COVID-19 before they are admitted, and operations are postponed if the test is positive or if the patient or a family member has symptoms.

Some consultations are taking place via video or telephone call, but face-to-face clinics have continued where necessary, for example if a physical examination is required.

Nic Goodger, maxillofacial consultant at East Kent Hospitals, said: “It is vital for many cancer patients that they receive treatment as soon as possible.

“I’m delighted with the response from colleagues, both within the Trust and in local private hospitals, that has allowed us to continue working during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It means we can give our patients the timely treatment they need in a safe environment, giving them the best possible chance of recovery.”

Surgeons have operated on 29 urgent bowel cancer patients since the beginning of April, while almost 130 breast cancer patients had surgery in March and April this year, compared to 86 last year.

A total of 124 skin cancer patients have been operated on in March and April this year, five more than the previous year, while there is an increase of three in head and neck cancer, with 24 treated compared to 21 last year.

Some of the most vulnerable patients are able to have their chemotherapy treatment in a mobile unit provided in partnership with charity Hope For Tomorrow, meaning they don’t need to visit hospital.

The charity’s vehicle visits Cheriton, Deal and Herne Bay and can treat up to four patients at a time.