'Don't wait to get checked out' say West Country doctors as cancer referrals fall by 75 per cent in Coronavirus era

NHS bosses are warning that people are putting their lives at risk by not seeking help for symptoms that could be the early signs of cancer.

The number of referrals from GPs to hospitals in the West Country has fallen sharply since the outbreak of the coronavirus, and doctors are worried that thousands of new cancer cases could be missed as the pandemic means people are failing to get checked out.

200,000

cancer referrals missed every week

75%

drop in GP cancer referrals

These statistics make for worrying reading, as we know this drop is not because people are not experiencing symptoms.

Dr Ruth Grabham, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group
Cancer referral rates are down 75 per cent. Credit: PA

Wild food expert Thom Hunt, who stars in the Channel 4 TV series Three Hungry Boys, was diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 27.

He says it is more important than ever that people get checked if they have any concerns.

It is vital that people who are worried about their health continue to contact their GP, and follow through with hospital appointments. I'm one of the lucky ones who made it to the other side.

Thom Hunt

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Some private hospitals are now accepting people for cancer checks. Credit: PA

It’s important that people living in the South West do not delay seeking help for cancer checks and treatment as this could result in poorer outcomes for their health further down the road.

Dr Michael Marsh, South West medical director for NHS England

Some private hospitals are now accepting patients referred for cancer checks in order to free up space in NHS hospitals.

Plymouth's Nuffield Hospital, across the road from the main Derriford Hospital site, is carrying out chemotherapy and some outpatient appointments.

Blood tests and other non-urgent services are being carried out at Home Park, Plymouth Argyle's stadium.

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In order to limit exposure and keep patients and staff safe, GP practices in Devon are setting up dedicated sites where patients who have, or may have, Covid-19 can be assessed and treated for the virus away from other patients.

GPs are also offering online consultations where possible.

The best chance of successful treatment for cancer is through early detection. GPs are able to assess over the phone and by video and if necessary, they can plan for you to safely be seen face-to-face.

Dr John Renninson, consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust