Western Morning News (Saturday)
Cancer care continues despite Covid pressures
THE rapid spread of coronavirus through Cornwall has led to the number of patients in hospital with the infection now being 14 times as many as there were just a month ago.
A meeting of the board of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) was told that there were now 56 people in Cornwall’s main hospital with Covid-19.
Members were reminded that at their last meeting, on December 3, it was reported that there were just four people with Covid in the hospital.
Robin Jones, acting director of operations at RCHT, said that two current patients were in the intensive treatment unit (ITU) and three were in the high dependency unit (HDU).
Mr Jones said that since the pandemic started in March 2020 there had been 96 deaths in hospitals run by RCHT – it runs Treliske, West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and St Michael’s Hospital at Hayle – with 18 having occurred since the board’s last meeting in December. He said it was a “very sad statistic”. Scores more deaths have occurred at Cornwall’s community hospitals, which are run by the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
He said: “Cornwall is becoming busier, which is the term I use, we are seeing more Covid in the community and we have more patients in the hospital as well.”
The acting director said the hospitals trust was working on a basis of making sure that patients do not come to harm. A plan was in place to ensure the hospital could cope with demand and an expansion of critical care was being prepared if needed.
Mr Jones said all staff were also being prepared so they could help support frontline priority services if required.
The board heard that visiting restrictions were in place with visitors only allowed for end-of-life patients, maternity, paediatrics and when visits were considered to be in clinical best interests.
Turning to the vaccine he explained that there are two sites at RCH – one at the Tower block and another at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre. He said GPs were also rolling out vaccines and further mass vaccination sites are being planned.
Mr Jones said that while the
The Royal Cornwall Hospital increase in Covid patients and a switch to prioritise urgent care had had an impact on waiting times, the trust had continued to prioritise cancer diagnosis and treatment.
In November 89.8% of cancer patients were seen within two weeks of referral – down from 97.6% in October. However 91.5% of patients were treated within 62 days of referral, up from 90.1% in October.
Mr Jones said: “The increase in demand for breast services above our normal demand since October has impacted on our two-week wait performance and are now finding treating breast patients within the 62-day standard a challenge due to the delay to treatment planning and surgical location changes.
“Despite delay to first appointment for breast patients they continue to achieve 97% in reach diagnosis by day 28 and recent changes to booking will reduce risk to patients and performance.”
Kate Shields, RCHT chief executive, said that some patients may find that routine appointments will be cancelled due to the demand on services. People were reminded that if they had any concerns they should contact their GP or call NHS 111. Mr Jones said the hospital was “open for business” and said: “If you need our services please come.”