Rising to the challenge

We are heading into the second month of the UK-wide lockdown and we have become used to the challenges it brings.

The clinical teams in all of our cancer centres are doing an excellent job in maintaining our capability and treating our patients.  I have the utmost respect for all our staff whether they be clinical or support staff, maintenance or housekeeping.  They are the lifeblood who keep our organisation going.

We have made great efforts to ensure that cancer patients can still receive their treatment in a safe environment.

Rutherford Health has taken the lead when it comes to testing staff and patients for the Coronavirus. This week saw all of our staff and patients from all three of our centres tested with the antibody test kit, and, once fully validated, all new patients will be able to undergo the test before they commence treatment. This reduces the risk of cross infection at our centres and gives our staff and patients the confidence to fight cancer without the added threat of the Coronavirus. Our test kits have been sourced from South Korea and they have proven their worth in both South Korea and Germany.

Our antibody testing will also create a significant amount of vital data that will be crucial for the UK government’s efforts to develop a working antibody test that can be used by the general population.

All of us in cancer care remain troubled by reports of delays and cancellation of treatment. We fully understand the pressures on the healthcare system. We know that government wants to utilise the independent sector to ease the burden on the NHS. The good news is that healthcare providers, both public and independent, have not been taking the threat that Covid-19 places on cancer care lightly. Independent cancer centres from across the UK have offered their services for NHS patients and Rutherford Health is no exception.

We have the added advantage of already treating NHS patients at our centres; the Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales has been treating cancer patients with proton beam therapy for over a year now and this has been expanded to include chemotherapy and radiotherapy so that cancer patients do not face any delays because of the pandemic. Similar arrangements are already in place with our Northumberland centre, where we are now taking on increasing numbers of NHS patients to ensure that local and regional Trusts can cope with the strain that COVID-19 is placing on them. It is, however, essential that there is collaborative effort to ensure that red tape is kept to a minimum and the delivery of cancer services can be kept on track. As a Liverpool supporter, the only red tape I want to see is wrapped around a league championship trophy.

The next two weeks will be the period when we will be tested the most as the NHS look to us to take patients who can’t be treated in an NHS facility.  Over the past four weeks we have been preparing for this phase of the national response.  A great deal of work has been going on in the background and I am confident that we are ready to support a higher volume of patients through our RCCs. We are ready to rise to the challenge. 

By Mike Moran, chief executive officer, Rutherford Health.