The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance has been working with hospital trusts across the region to develop arrangements for people who are referred for tests for suspected cancer, or whose condition could deteriorate if treatment was delayed, to be seen at a hospital where the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus is kept to the absolute minimum.
A restricted access zone within Pontefract hospital came into operation on 8 June will mainly provide a service for the 550,000 citizens of Wakefield district and North Kirklees.
Careful zoning of the site has enabled the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Pontefract Hospital, to successfully create a centre which is exclusively for patients who have has a negative test for COVID-19 following a period of self-isolation.
The cancer centre has separate entry and exit routes and access to and from other parts of the hospital have been closed off to anyone except patients attending for cancer tests or treatment, who have been confirmed as being COVID-free, and staff working in the cancer service. All corridors, waiting areas, clinic rooms, operating theatres and wards will only be accessible to patients who have tested negative for COVID.
To keep the risk of staff or patients being exposed to COVID-19 to an absolute minimum, all patients attending the cancer centre for appointments or surgery and anyone who lives with them is required to self-isolate for 14 days and be tested in line with clinical guidance.
Patients and people who live with them will also need to self-isolate for 14 days after surgery to keep them safe from exposure to COVID infection while they are recovering.
Many hospital outpatient services are already being provided remotely to prevent the spread of infection. The zoning arrangements mean that other outpatient services, antenatal and postnatal care and the Urgent Treatment Centre at Pontefract are all still being offered at Pontefract Hospital, with access to them via alternative entrances.
The medical ward has been closed to make way for the cancer service and stroke rehabilitation, which had moved temporarily to Pontefract from Dewsbury as part of the COVID response, is now being provided at Pinderfields and Dewsbury hospitals.
Day case surgery for people who had completed a 14 day period of isolation and had a negative COVID test began on 8 June and the first patents requiring inpatient surgery for breast, urology, gynaecological and colorectal cancers have been booked at Pontefract Hospital from 22 June.
Martin Barkley, Chief Executive of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The team have worked extremely hard to put in place this dedicated service so quickly. We know that many people have avoided seeking help from their doctor because of the fear of being exposed to the coronavirus and this meant we had far less patients referred to us with suspected cancers in April and May.
“We understand the requirement to self-isolate before surgery is a huge commitment for patients and their families to make at a very stressful time but it is vitally important that people needing tests or treatment for cancer can have confidence that they are coming into a safe environment.”