Weekly Poll – COVID-19: Cancer Treatments

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 28 September 2020, we asked a question about Cancer Treatments, a topic suggested by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Results

Question 1: Have you or someone you know been affected by changes to cancer services/support during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

  • YES – 54% (14 respondents)
  • NO – 46% (12 respondents)

Question 2: Are you concerned by changes to cancer services/support during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

  • YES – 85% (22 respondents)
  • NO – 15% (4 respondents)

Comments

Respondents identified the following main themes and key concerns.  We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Appointments Cancelled

Some respondents have been directly affected by changes to cancer services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in uncertainty and anxiety for people receiving treatment and awaiting diagnosis.

“I had cancer treatment last year and have had my follow-up appointment cancelled. I am due a mammogram but am too scared to travel from the Western Isles to Glasgow at present. Inverness would not do it for me on their visit with their mobile unit!”

“Before lockdown I was told I have suspected cancer. Appointment for tests was cancelled due to lockdown. Cannot get tests due to huge waiting lists. We are told that many cancers are curable if diagnosed early enough. More than a year has gone by since I was told I have suspected cancer, but I still cannot get tests to find out whether I actually do have cancer.”

More generally, respondents commented on their concerns about delays to treatment and the importance of early diagnosis.

“Concerned that people who might have cancer are not getting the diagnosis early because of COVID-19 and how this will affect them down the line when they need the treatment in hospital.”

“I am concerned that the lack of treatment people has had will result in more deaths over the next few years.”

“I understand the uncertainties caused by COVID-19, but I believe delaying cancer treatment is playing with people’s lives. It really is unfair. A diagnosis is unimaginably upsetting without the further distress of not receiving treatment.”

Telephone Appointments

Some respondents noted that consultations were taking place by telephone as opposed to face-to-face.

“Appointments have changed to telephone calls. Medication is delivered to our house by the hospital and necessary blood tests are being done by the GP practice for the hospital.”

“Treatment stopped for a while. Scans delayed and postponed. More telephone appointments instead of face-to-face.”

Patient Transport

A portion of respondents had experienced difficulties with booking patient transport for attending hospital appointments.  In August 2019, Disability Equality Scotland conducted a weekly poll about patient transport services. We received almost 850 responses highlighting the areas for concern around booking and eligibility criteria, transporting wheelchairs, travelling with carers and delays and cancellations. The weekly poll was followed by a roadshow event in Falkirk on 4 November, where we welcomed representatives of the Scottish Ambulance Service who were able to discuss our members’ concerns.

“My mum is having chemo at the Raigmore, but we live in Thurso and the recurring problem is the appt time to best suit the arrival of patient transport in Inverness”

“I couldn’t book patient transport to get to my appointment and I don’t fancy using public transport at the moment.”

Continuing Treatment                

Respondents praised NHS staff for continuing to provide cancer services during the ongoing restrictions that are in place. 

“My mammogram went ahead unaffected, and the staff at Hairmyres were extremely efficient and attentive.”

“Some good stories coming out from NHS Tayside.”

“My daughter has seen her specialist and is still getting treatment”

Conclusion

Most respondents were concerned by changes to cancer services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some respondents had direct experience of appointments being cancelled, resulting in considerable uncertainty and anxiety. In some cases, face-to-face consultations had been replaced by telephone appointments. There are ongoing issues regarding access to patient transport. This is an area that Disability Equality Scotland has previously brought to the attention of the Scottish Ambulance Service. A number of respondents praised NHS staff for continuing to deliver key cancer treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disability Equality Scotland, October 2020

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