June Edition - COVID-19
COVID-19 – What does it mean for patients with non-COVID conditions? #COVIDSURG
Professor Chand is closely associated with the evolving policies with regard to surgery and colorectal cancer. He is a co-investigator, collaborator and key opinion leader on many aspects of the surgical global response including co-authoring research, policy, and educational matters during COVID-19.
COVID-19 has been an unprecedented pandemic that has stretched the healthcare services of nearly every country in the world. The headlines have captured the scale of the pandemic including deaths and hospital admissions, but the effects of this terrible virus are having more widespread damage. Suppression of existing symptoms or ignoring new ones have led to a reduction in patients seeking medical help and paradoxically, many hospitals have had such dramatic decreases that outpatient clinics and emergency rooms remain worryingly empty. We have seen this across the NHS. One may surmise that this is exactly what the healthcare systems wanted so that they could deal with the expected rush of patients with COVID-19. But there is a further lesser spoken concern, of patients delaying investigations and treatments because they are either afraid of burdening the system or exposing themselves to the virus in busy hospitals. These delays are expected to lead to greater challenges in treating conditions appropriately and possibly lead to worse outcomes of the more serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
It is vitally important that patients continue to seek appropriate medical attention for either existing conditions or new symptoms so not to lead to unnecessary delays in investigations and treatments. We are currently modelling the projections of what this may look like over the next 6 months and beyond. Often teleconsultation with a specialist and triaging of investigations to make a timely diagnosis are sufficient. Only those investigations deemed necessary are currently being undertaken so not to expose patients to additional risks of COVID-19. Less serious conditions are correctly being deferred so not to risk COVID-19 exposure but surgery for urgent and cancer conditions is continuing with all the necessary precautions put in place to ensure safety for patients and clinicians. Appropriate PPE to protect clinicians, swabbing and testing of patients undergoing surgery, and adopting risk-reducing techniques during the surgical procedure are all being employed to ensure the highest standards are maintained.
Whilst social distancing, isolating and limiting travel continue to remain in place to ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce the burden on healthcare systems, ignoring symptoms is not sensible and may lead additional problems in the future. NHS Trusts are open and welcome all such patients as it the private health sector.