A prominent Suffolk county councillor with inoperable lung cancer believes her condition could have been treated 18 months earlier had she been offered a face-to-face assessment by health services.

Instead, councillor Caroline Page, who represents Woodbridge, was assessed over the phone during the COVID-19 pandemic by Long COVID services commissioned by East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) and advised that her breathlessness and fatigue were symptoms of ‘Long COVID.’

After a long wait she was put into online video groups for people believed to be suffering from specific symptoms of Long COVID: one for fatigue and another for breathlessness, before ESNEFT tried to discharge her and advised her to use an app that would assess her mood.

After 18 months, she pushed for her symptoms to be investigated face-to-face and was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer at the end of August.

Her condition is currently inoperable and she is undergoing treatment to see if the disease can be controlled.

She is calling for ESNEFT to offer in person assessments to ensure conditions are diagnosed correctly.

She said: “I am obviously upset that I was put off for so long before receiving a proper assessment for my condition. I am also anxious about others who may be in the same situation.

“The health trust is funded to provide Long COVID support, but has decided to offer no face-to-face clinical assessments or any overview, even to discover whether they have it. I do recognise it is cheaper to phone and ask if we were feeling better, but it is not enough."

“How many people are there, supposedly with Long COVID, who don’t realise that the tiredness and breathlessness they are experiencing might actually be something worse?”

However, she said the overstretched Ipswich Hospital was ‘working marvels in appalling circumstances’ to help control her condition.

“They are working their socks off and I wouldn’t want people to think that they were not doing their utmost. But they shouldn't have had to, if the trust's COVID support service had been fit for purpose. This is particularly worrying as we are experiencing another surge of COVID.”

She added: “Unfortunately, I think my cancer could have been picked up sooner. I would not like this to happen to others."

Dr Angela Tillett, chief medical officer at ESNEFT, said: “We were sorry to hear about the concerns raised by Councillor Page.

“We would urge her to contact our dedicated Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team so we can discuss her care at Ipswich Hospital with her directly.

"We are very keen to listen and to support her further.”