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The North West’s cancer centres are pulling out all the stops to ensure people can get convenient cancer care during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Merseyside and The Christie Cancer Centre in Manchester have rapidly mobilised the use of phone and video consultations, with 85% of all patient appointments at Clatterbridge now taking place remotely.
The two 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 Christie has so far undertaken 2,500 chemotherapy home deliveries since the pandemic started. A further 300 patients have collected treatment through a new click and collect drive-through service that has been established in an administrative building away from the main hospital site.
At Clatterbridge, the number of people receiving treatment at home from specialist chemotherapy nurses has increased by 15% during the outbreak and volunteers have made 401 home deliveries of oral chemotherapy and medication to patients who don’t have anyone who can collect it for them.
Karen James from Southport used to go to hospital every three weeks for intravenous cancer treatment but now receives it at home from specialist nurses.
She 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 being able to have treatment at home. “
Grandmother Mary Nolan, 78, who normally attends Clatterbridge’s CANTreat clinic at Halton General in Runcorn for treatment for breast, lung, bone and liver cancers, has had medication delivered to her home in Warrington by courier.
She said: “I was very anxious about how I would get my medication when I was told to shield. My son in law would usually take me to appointments and collect my medication but he had to work and had much less time when we went into lockdown.
“I was very relieved when The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre said they could arrange to have my medication sent to me via a courier. It was a huge weight off my mind. The process was really quick and I had my medication a few days after speaking to the nurses.
“There’s been no disruption to my care and I’d be happy to receive my medication this way in the future.”
Dr David Levy, NHS North West Medical Director, said: “NHS staff are working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services such as cancer checks and urgent surgery.
“Being able to offer treatment and consultations to people in their own homes ensures they are getting the same high standard of care they are used to and they don’t have to attend hospital for regular appointments.
“We know that fewer people have been coming forward with cancer symptoms during this time and hope this will reassure them that the NHS is still there for them and assessments and treatments are still happening. People should contact their doctor if they have any persistent or worrying symptoms.”
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Photograph attached – Karen James, from Southport