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Cancer patients will die because of diagnosis delays during pandemic, warns hospital chief

PUBLISHED: 18:09 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:09 04 June 2020

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, has said people will die because they didn't come to hospital for a cancer diagnosis. Picture: GREGG BROWN/SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, has said people will die because they didn't come to hospital for a cancer diagnosis. Picture: GREGG BROWN/SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Cancer patients who were too scared to get symptoms checked out by their doctor during the peak of the coronavirus will die because of the delay in diagnosis, it has been warned.

There has been a 80% drop in the number of people coming to Ipswich and Colchester hospitals for cancer referrals and the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust boss has warned there will be consequences. Picture: GETTYThere has been a 80% drop in the number of people coming to Ipswich and Colchester hospitals for cancer referrals and the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust boss has warned there will be consequences. Picture: GETTY

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, is now urging anyone who has been referred for treatment or for a life-saving operation to attend appointments.

He fears the Covid-19 death toll could double when you factor in deaths caused by lockdown and the recession that will ensue.

Speaking at a council of governors meeting today, Mr Hulme said: “We have seen an 80% reduction in referrals for cancer diagnosis (during lockdown) some of those people will die because they will not get their diagnosis early enough.

“When we look back in several years time we will see that because of the recession and people not accessing healthcare when they needed it, that the number of deaths – sadly as a result of Covid-19 – of people without the infection will probably be higher.”

Mr Hulme added: “The message ‘protect the NHS’ may have been misunderstood by swathes of the general public who think that by staying away from the NHS and their GP they are protecting them.

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“They may be but clinically the risk of not having urgent care or coming forward when you may have something wrong with you is much greater than the risk of acquiring Covid-19 in a healthcare setting.”

The chief executive has asked his council of governors to use their positions as leaders within the community to do everything they can to remove the fear that people have of coming to hospital and said: “We can do something about that and we can change the perception.”

He explained that the trust is now actively encouraging patients to return and said: “Yesterday we contacted several hundred people and are slowly bringing them back to urgent operations.

“These are people who have life saving operations required and 40 of those patients said they didn’t want to come in for that urgent operation because they were too frightened to come into the hospital.”

Mr Hulme wanted to make it clear that despite some fear from the general public that hospitals have been ‘overrun’ during the Covid-19 crisis, ESNEFT hospitals have never been in a position where they haven’t been able to provide care.

Though the hospitals have changed management styles and accommodated additional demand in specific areas to deal with infections, they are “running as usual” in many areas.


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