Drop in cancer referrals: doctors urge people to visit their GP if they have health worries

NHS organisations in York and North Yorkshire are working together to ensure cancer services continue safely, urging patients not to delay seeking help if they notice any signs and symptoms of cancer.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, across York and North Yorkshire there has been a significant reduction in two-week referrals from GP practices to secondary care, a statistic which is extremely worrying to health professionals as they witness fewer patients making appointments to express their health concerns.

Dr Dan Cottingham, Cancer and End of Life Lead at NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Cancer hasn’t gone away because of coronavirus. There will still be people in our community experiencing signs and symptoms of cancer such as the sudden appearance of a lump, blood in their urine, or a change to usual bowel habits – and so it is vital these people contact their GP practice so a doctor can investigate and refer to a specialist if necessary.”

Accessing a GP has changed during the pandemic but GP practices are continuing to provide the same safe care they always have done. “GP appointments are still available for patients to talk through any concerns over the phone or via an online video consultation, and are working closely with cancer specialist teams at York and Scarborough hospitals to ensure urgent cases continue to be seen promptly.”

People who are referred into our region’s hospitals for treatment or who are already on a course of treatment can expect the same quality of care; the way that care now looks however may have changed due to the restrictions of the pandemic.

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has redesigned services to enable the safe continuation of quality care during the pandemic.

Laura Milburn, Head of Cancer at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “It is vital that patients experiencing concerning symptoms, especially those that could be cancer, contact their GPs for assessment during the pandemic.

“GP and hospital services have had to change significantly to manage the impact of the pandemic but we want to reassure patients who are referred into our hospitals for investigation that we are still providing the same quality of care, just in a different way, ensuring all the appropriate measures in line with government guidance are in place to keep patients safe when accessing services.”