Pandemic led to ‘extremely worrying’ drop in cancer referrals in district


May 27, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a “significant drop” in the number of people in the Harrogate district going to their GP with cancer symptoms.

The situation was “extremely worrying” said the district’s health professionals who urged the public to always see a doctor about any symptoms that may be cancer.

All patients with suspected cancer are referred by their doctors for an urgent appointment at Harrogate District Hospital, which can either rule out  the disease or pick it up early and allow for urgent investigations and treatment.

The hospital said it would normally expect to see 190-200 such urgent cancer referrals a week but during the past couple of months that had dropped to as low as 60 patients per week.

The numbers of patients being referred for appointments has started to rise again, but the concern is that not everyone is getting in touch with their GP.

Dr Charles Parker, NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s Clinical Chair, said:

“Finding cancer early offers the best chance to cure it. Ignoring potential problems can have serious consequences for people, something that nobody wants. Please, if you’re concerned, make an appointment with your GP. We are doing all we can to care for patients safely.”

People who are referred into Harrogate District Hospital for investigation or treatment, or who are already on a course of treatment, can expect the same quality of care; the way that care is delivered however may have changed in response to the pandemic.”

Noreen Hawkshaw, Macmillian Lead Nurse for Cancer and Matron for the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre at the hospital, said:

“Here in Harrogate district, the NHS is continuing to work hard to manage the coronavirus pandemic, but we’re also working hard to ensure patients can safely access essential services such as cancer investigation and treatments if needed.

“The NHS has had to change significantly to manage the impact of the pandemic but we want to reassure patients who are referred to Harrogate District Hospital for investigation that we are still providing the same high quality of care, just in a different way, ensuring all the appropriate measures in line with Government guidance are in place to keep you safe when accessing our services.”


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