During the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS staff are working together to ensure cancer treatment continues in a way that ensures patient and staff safety, and balances the risks from treatment, clinical need and capacity.

As a result, new approaches to cancer care are being set up to ensure patients get the lifesaving treatments they need.

Cancer hubs, led by The Royal Marsden hospital, University College London Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, are coordinating cancer services across London. The hubs will support hospitals across the NHS and independent sector to work together to maximise capacity and ensure that people receive the treatment that they need in COVID-free sites.

Additionally, the NHS is working with partners to pool resources across local areas so that cancer treatment can continue safely. The NHS has secured the use of almost all independent hospitals across England and their capacity is already being used for cancer diagnosis and treatment, to help take some of the pressure off hospitals treating people with coronavirus.

Changes to treatment and care

Patients may see changes to the way their treatment and care is delivered to keep them and staff safe. This may include more appointments carried out via telephone or video calls, reducing the need for hospital appointments. Some patients may have their chemotherapy at home or have fewer radiotherapy appointments, to reduce visits to hospitals while continuing with their treatment plans.

Some patients may also see their treatment move to a different hospital or be treated by a different cancer specialist if this allows 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 may be safer to delay cancer treatment or give it in a different way. The NHS has issued advice to clinicians to help inform these conversations with patients. Cancer specialists will discuss this with patients and make appropriate plans where it is too risky to go ahead with treatment at this time.

Early diagnosis of cancer offers opportunities for the best outcome, and the NHS is encouraging 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.