NHS urges people to get cancer symptoms checked as GP referrals drop by 66%

People in the East Midlands who suspect they may have cancer symptoms are being urged to seek help despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Health leaders at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands are stressing the importance of having worrying signs checked out as soon as possible.

Latest figures have revealed that there is a sharp drop in cancer referrals as patients are not contacting their GP for health advice. Referrals from GPs were down by 66 per cent in the week ending 19 April 2020 compared with the week ending 1 March 2020.

Research by Portland has also found around a third of people would be worried about seeking out medical opinion on their symptoms. Getting coronavirus or giving it to their family were among the top reasons that people would not come forward when they have cancer symptoms along with fears that they could be a burden to the health service.

‘Help us Help You’, a major public information campaign, has now been launched to encourage people to contact their GP if they are experiencing the signs of cancer.

Claire Knee

Claire Knee, aged 45 from Beeston, Nottingham was diagnosed with breast cancer in March – about a week before the national ‘lock-down’ measures were introduced. Now – after surgeons successfully removed a tumour from her right breast – Claire has advice for people who experience signs and symptoms of cancer but are too scared to contact their GP.

Claire said: “Looking back I just think that if I hadn’t made the call to my GP I would be walking around with undetected breast cancer, which could still be growing now. I would urge anyone in similar circumstances to contact their GP and get checked – even if it’s just for peace of mind.”

Nigel Sturrock, Medical Director at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said: “NHS staff have made huge efforts to deal with coronavirus but they are also working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services such as cancer checks and urgent surgery.

“From online consultations to the roll-out of cancer treatment hubs, we are doing all we can to make sure patients receive the life-saving care that they need.

“The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is treatment will be successful and the higher the chance of survival. So even in these stressful times it’s vital people don’t delay seeking help with cancer symptoms.”

For more information about the signs and symptoms of cancer visit