Fears ‘large numbers of patients’ in Sunderland could be delaying life-saving treatments due to Covid concerns

‘Large numbers of patients’ in Sunderland could be delaying life-saving treatments due to Covid fears, NHS chiefs have warned.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 1:55 pm
Large numbers of patients are believed to be delaying cancer treatment due to Covid fears.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, doctors have urged the public to be aware of their general health, as well as their risk of contracting the virus.

But the latest figures suggest many may not have heeded the message, with referrals for conditions such as lung and breast cancer remaining low.

“Cancer performance remains challenging, it remains challenging across the country, it remains challenging across the region, it remains challenging in Sunderland,” said David Chandler, chief finance officer at Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

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“We’re still conscious that large numbers of patients are potentially choosing to delay their treatment due to Covid concerns and we do our utmost to encourage people not to do that.

“Our 10-week-wait cancer target remains volatile and we do have pressures in certain areas, but we have got action plans in place.”

Chandler was speaking at yesterday’s (Wednesday, April 14) meeting of Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

According to a presentation for councillors, cancer referrals from GPs remain lower than they were over the same period in 2019/20.

However, NHS chiefs have also admitted workforce pressures caused by the pandemic have also played a part, particularly in services such as radiology.

But Wearside is also performing better than the North East average for referrals from family doctors to specialist care.

Peter Sutton, executive director of planning and business development at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Sunderland Royal Hospital, told the panel he hoped measures such as sending patients to private hospitals would help to reduce waiting lists for some services, such as diagnostics, quickly.

This is not the first time health bosses have urged the public to watch for health concerns other than those directly related to the coronavirus pandemic, with warnings also raised in April last year (2020).

Chandler added: “We would encourage anybody and everybody, if you have concerns, if you’re a member of the public and you think [you’re] displaying cancer-type symptoms and you’re paranoid about that, I would strongly advise you to see a GP.”

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