Thousands of patients with cancer have had chemotherapy delivered to their doors so that they can more safely receive treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Up to 10,000 chemo home deliveries were made over three months at the peak of the outbreak, avoiding the need for patients to venture out and risk infection when their immune system was low.
The drops are part of the COVID-friendly treatments introduced in response to the pandemic which have helped to ensure that 85,000 people could start treatment between March and June, with latest data showing referrals beginning to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
NHS staff, including community nurses and pharmacists, and volunteers have been dropping off the life-saving medication – they step back two metres when they arrive at a patient’s house, identify them and make sure they have everything they need.
In south London, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust have been carrying out up to 500 deliveries a month.
Chemo deliveries increased by 46% during the pandemic in Dudley alone with 440 treatment packages sent to patients’ homes and almost 900 were sent to people with cancer in Torbay.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in the north west has used NHS volunteers who have been going the extra mile to make over 900 deliveries across Merseyside as well as increasing their chemo at home service by 25% since the beginning of March.
Hospitals have also significantly increased the use of chemo at home, with local pharmacy teams and community nurses providing the service to reduce cancer patients’ risk of exposure to the virus.
The action joins a series of measures, including the rollout of COVID protected cancer hubs for treatment and introducing ‘COVIDfriendly’ cancer drugs.
NHS England is spending £160 million on drugs that mean patients do not have to go to hospitals for regular checks and treatment.
Dame Cally Palmer, director of cancer for the NHS in England said: “NHS staff have treated more than 108,000 patients requiring specialist hospital care for COVID-19 while also keeping other vital services such as cancer, maternity and A&E running throughout the pandemic.
“The NHS has also fast tracked modern, more convenient services that help to keep patients and staff safe – from video consultations to chemotherapy delivered to patients’ doors – that have allowed 85,000 people to start cancer treatment during the pandemic.”
Cassie James, 58 from Southport has stage 4 breast cancer and since March, she has received her cancer treatment at home from specialist chemotherapy nurses at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Merseyside.
Cassie said: “Before lockdown, I had been going to hospital every three weeks for my cancer treatment. I’m on targeted therapies that are delivered via a drip and the whole process took about six hours, including two to three hours travelling there and back.
“Now I have my treatment at home and I absolutely love it. The home treatment team from Clatterbridge have been fantastic and my treatment is done and dusted in a couple of hours. You build a really strong bond with the nurses because they can sit down and chat to you. It’s more personal and I feel much more relaxed because I’m in my own home. It has made a big difference.”