During the peak of the pandemic a new approach to cancer care across the capital was introduced to ensure patients got the lifesaving treatments they needed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cancer services across London were coordinated by specialist ‘Cancer Hubs’.
The Hubs ensured NHS hospitals were able to continue to deliver as much cancer treatment as possible across the capital. They also supported hospitals across the NHS and independent sector to work together to maximise capacity and ensure that people received the treatment that they need.
Cancer hubs, led by The Royal Marsden, University College London Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, coordinated cancer services across London. The hubs supported hospitals across the NHS and independent sector to work together to maximise capacity and ensured that people receive the treatment that they need in COVID-free sites.
Additionally, the NHS worked with partners to pool resources across local areas so that cancer treatment can continue safely. The NHS secured the use of almost all independent hospitals across England and their capacity was used for cancer diagnosis and treatment, to help take some of the pressure off hospitals treating people with coronavirus.
Changes to treatment and care
During this period cancer patients saw changes to the way their treatment and care was delivered to keep them and staff safe. This included more appointments carried out via telephone or video calls, reducing the need for hospital appointments. Some patients may have had their chemotherapy at home or had fewer radiotherapy appointments, to reduce visits to hospitals while continuing with their treatment plans.
Some patients also saw their treatment move to a different hospital or were treated by a different cancer specialist if this allowed treatment to be carried out safely and quickly.
As some people with cancer will be more vulnerable to coronavirus because their treatment can weaken their immune system, in some cases it was safer to delay cancer treatment or give it in a different way. The NHS issued advice to clinicians to help inform these conversations with patients, and cancer specialists were able to discuss this with patients and make appropriate plans where it was too risky to go ahead with treatment at this time.
Early diagnosis of cancer offers opportunities for the best outcome.
The NHS continues to encourage anyone with symptoms they are concerned about to contact their doctor. GP surgeries are able to offer online consultations and telephone triage so that people do not have to attend in person unless absolutely necessary.