An NHS campaign launches in five north London boroughs this week to encourage local residents to act on symptoms that may be a sign of cancer. During the covid pandemic fewer people have been going to their GP or hospital leading to an estimated 950 ‘missing’ cancer diagnoses in the area. Led by the North Central London Cancer Alliance in collaboration with the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group, the campaign features local healthcare professionals and members of the public, and will call on people to talk to their GPs and to participate in cancer screening when invited, regardless of any level of COVID-19 restrictions.
The key campaign messages are:
- What – know the symptoms
- Why – early action leads to better outcomes
- When – the NHS is here for you safely
- How – get in touch with your GP practice, and participate in screening when invited
The impact of COVID-19 on cancer referrals is evident in the region’s statistics. Over the course of the pandemic local GPs and hospital clinicians have seen a decline in the number of people who are taking the first step to investigate health problems or follow up with hospital appointments.
Naser Turabi, Managing Director of the North Central London Cancer Alliance, says: “We know from local data that many people have held back from contacting their GPs during the peaks of the pandemic because they feared going out or because they felt that healthcare professionals were too busy dealing with COVID-19. The NHS has, in fact, remained open for all conditions throughout the pandemic. Cancer diagnosis and treatment in particular has continued the whole time, using private hospitals to make sure people were treated. What we are most worried about is people staying at home if they have symptoms such as unexplained pain, a lump, blood in poo or a persistent cough.
“Although the ways to contact your GP have changed and getting through is sometimes difficult, people who have noticed changes in their health must still seek help. If it turns out to be cancer, early diagnosis makes successful treatment much more likely.”
The local campaign, which builds on the national NHS campaign Help Us Help You, will target residents in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington. There will be a particular focus on those at risk of bowel, lung, breast and cervical cancer. Activity will involve close working with 15 voluntary and community organisations across the region to reach a wide cross-section of the local population, as well as asking others to help by spreading the key messages. Campaign material will also be on display in local GP practices, pharmacies, hospital sites and other public places and through social media.