In an attempt to minimise the number of procedures being postponed, hospital trusts have been told by NHS England to urgently reconfigure cancer services to create “clean” sites for cancer surgery and test all admissions for COVID-19. Patients are to be prioritised for cancer treatment on a regional basis, with a new triage system. This could involve the use of private hospitals.
Some hospitals, including Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust and University Hospitals of Birmingham Foundation Trust, have cancelled all non-urgent cancer surgery. Walsall Healthcare Trust is using a local private hospital for all its cancer surgeries and its own main acute site for coronavirus cases.
Despite the ongoing national shortage of coronavirus tests, all potential admissions must also be tested for the virus “48-hours before surgery”. Those patients who test positive for coronavirus will be “considered alongside other urgent surgery within a hospital treating COVID-19 patients”.
This decision has been based on experiences in Italy and in London, where the Royal Marsden is now the main hub for cancer care in the capital.