OPINION: Why I’m worried about all the medical conditions being masked by coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 10:59 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:06 21 May 2020
The strain on the NHS caused by coronavirus has left many outpatients without medical care or diseases undiagnosed, says Rachel Moore
How quickly we have slipped into being single-issue obsessives.
Frozen in fear of infection by the C-word and ‘staying safe’ is so all-consuming we’re ignoring other health red flags, that could have equally fatal consequences.
Lumps and bumps, pains and aches that would normally have us scooting to the surgery are being swept under the carpet until “this is all over” and safe, whenever that may be.
But a huge price is being stored up by not wanting to “bother” the doctor.
On top of the hideous death toll of Covid-19 is a growing new tragic pipeline of preventable deaths from the other diseases waiting in the wings, either because of our own neglect, or by suspending other hospital services while the NHS gets to grips with the ‘rona rampage.
Cancer alone is predicted to take another 20,000 lives as an indirect result of Covid-19.
For perspective, that’s just 7,000 short of the capacity of Carrow Road predicted to be lost to cancer because treatment has been put on hold during the crisis and symptoms are being ignored.
Just as scientists and epidemiologists are offering soothing reassurance that UK deaths from covid-19 could end by June, we discover that sheltering from the virus is causing another grim statistic and more families to lose love ones because of Covid-19, albeit indirectly.
University College London (UCL) suggested the 20,000 cancer deaths in England and Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) estimates 5000 cancer patients might die waiting months for operations to remove tumours.
Others who might otherwise have been cured by surgery could now be at risk of their cancer returning.
We hear hospitals are like ghost towns with all outpatient services suspended as the virus is tackled.
In Norfolk, we are luckier than most that cancer services have been moved to the private Spire Hospital at Colney, but even then, there are those people waiting to get into the system, or those turning a blind eye to symptoms.
Unless the NHS resume normal services on cancer diagnostics and surgery now, the death toll will continue to rise.
Imagine being one of those people calling the cancer helplines, now receiving unparalleled numbers of calls, knowing a tumour is growing inside you but having your surgery postponed indefinitely.
A terrifying situation at any time, let alone when you’re stuck in the house helpless, all normality suspended.
It must be hell.
In March, like so many others, I had routine screening appointments cancelled. The appointments that come through when you hit age milestones. The type of screening when abnormalities are thrown up.
I was also undergoing investigations for another issue, also suddenly halted by the crisis.
At every outpatient appointment, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital was teeming with people, the car parks overflowing and barely a seat in waiting rooms.
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All these people will be waiting for their next appointment multiplied by working days. Playing catch-up feels like an impossible task.
As a former cancer patient, who was sent to the hospital for a scan for one thing 11 years ago, and came home with a cancer diagnosis, missing out on these screenings is worrying to say the least.
I’ve had one tumour. Screening exists to check I don’t have another anywhere else.
I’ve had successful surgery and radiation, luckily remaining cancer-free for nine years, but once it’s taken root once, the worry never goes away that it might sneak in again.
The backlog brought about by coronavirus might mean we might not find anything is wrong for months, if not years. Then, it might just be too late.
We need to know what catch-up strategies the Government and the NHS has to ensure we all get the tests and treatment we need as soon as possible.
But, most importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves and get medical help if we suspect something isn’t right.
It’s down to us to make a fuss about getting other services running.
And, laugh as we might about state-ordered exercise, for some chronic illnesses, it could be your lifesaver.
Some conditions are worsened by increased inactivity.
We all know, as a nation, we will come out of this fatter, slower, with rising effects of obesity, heart disease and stroke.
We need to get moving - and the government and NHS need to get a move on getting everyone back on track.
RESPECT TO CAREER CHANGERS:
Huge respect to all those people who can’t do their own jobs during lockdown and have showed the gumption, adaptability and flexibility to take on new roles.
Those who will come out of this with new experiences and knowledge of worlds they never imagine.
Needs must to pay bills, and it’s been inspiring listening to people who have taken supermarket, care and manual jobs to keep afloat.
A former agent to sport and showbiz stars told how working in Morrisons had shown her how easy – physically and mentally – her job was.
Others retraining as carers will tell you straight what they think of the assertion that carers are “unskilled” workers.
Another perspective this crisis has offered is there are no jobs above or below others, what looks easy often isn’t it, and anyone who grafts to pay their bills is someone to respect, whatever they do.
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