What’s it like going into hospital at the moment? How your appointments and treatment might have changed

29 May 2020

Hello, we are Lynne and Emma, Specialist Pancreatic Cancer Nurses.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, all healthcare settings have had to adapt to a new way of working to try to protect people from getting coronavirus. This may have impacted on your hospital appointments and also on tests. Your treatments may have been affected and been delayed, changed and in some cases stopped. As the NHS has been adapting to how it delivers care safely, today we are going talk about what hospital appointments may now be like. We’ll also offer some helpful information if you have had treatment delayed or had a treatment break.

In order to protect you and others from the coronavirus the NHS has established safe environments for your care. Previously we have talked about how remote telephone clinics have now been established, but there may of course be times when you will need to go to hospital for investigations and treatments. Your medical team at the hospital will be using the NHS and government guidelines to make sure this is as safe as possible. There will be some variation in different hospitals, but your medical team will give you all the information you will need when attending appointments. You can also find information on your hospital website.

What you may expect to see for outpatient appointments and admissions:

  • You will be asked to wash your hands and use hand sanitiser, which is available around all hospitals.
  • The staff will be in PPE (personal protective equipment) which will be a mask, and if close contact with you, an apron and gloves.
  • You will also need to wear a mask.
  • There will be social distancing measures in waiting areas and also in clinic rooms where possible.
  • If you have arrived by car you may be asked to wait in your car until you get a call or text for your appointment. If not, then it’s advisable to arrive at the appointment on time rather than be early.
  • You may be screened for coronavirus symptoms, which may include a series of questions and/or having your temperature taken.
  • You may not be able to bring someone with you to appointments – speak with your medical team about this.
  • If you are being admitted into hospital for surgery, including day surgery, you will be asked to follow strict social distancing and hand hygiene for 14 days before admission to hospital. You and any family members you live with may also need to self-isolate for 14 day. You will also have a test for coronavirus up to 72 hours before admission. This may be at a drive through testing station.
  • If you are staying in hospitals, visitors will be kept to a minimum, and any visitors will need to follow guidance to prevent infection.
  • Your treatment may be at a different hospital to usual, but your medical team will continue to oversee your care.

If you do develop coronavirus symptoms before any of your appointments, contact your medical team for advice.

''The hospital is moving people in and out of different doors, directing from the outside and the reception area is screened off. There were plenty of people still moving in and out, although very few are standing around or sitting in the foyer areas compared to normal. Personally, I was keen to get in and out as quickly as I could. Even with PPE in the department and plenty of cleaning happening, it felt odd being with so many people. That said, I am so thankful my test was done and the staff were very reassuring about getting back to normal.''

Preparing yourself if treatment has been delayed

As a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak you may have had a treatment break or delayed starting your treatment. We understand that this may be a worrying time and you may have feelings of worry and loss of control. It’s important to find out as much as you can from your medical team about what will happen with your treatment.

Questions that may be helpful to ask your medical team

  • If I or someone who I live with gets coronavirus what should I do?
  • Will my treatment continue or be further delayed if I have confirmed or suspected coronavirus?
  • My treatment has been delayed – how long will this be for, and when can I expect to have the treatment?
  • Will a delay to my treatment affect how well my treatment will work?
  • If I develop worsening symptoms due to my cancer, would that bring my treatment forward?
  • If my treatment is now at a different hospital, will you still treat me or will I see another doctor?
  • Can you explain the reasons for making changes to my treatment plan?

It may also be helpful to regain some control by focusing on things that you may be able to do. This is sometimes known as prehabilitation, which is preparing yourself for treatment physically, nutritionally and emotionally. For example, you can try to keep yourself fit and well by keeping active, and you may be able to maintain your weight through enzyme replacement and diet. Speak with your dietitian or medical team if you need support with this.

If you feel that you are developing new symptoms and do not feel as well as you had before, always contact your medical team for advice. You can also contact our Support Line nurses for support.

When a date has been confirmed to start treatment, if it has been some time, you may need to have a scan done in preparation, to help your team prepare and plan your care appropriately.

Getting some support

People have told us that they have found it beneficial to hear from others about how appointments may look now, as we enter into a new norm of care. You can read stories about this, and how people have dealt with the impact of coronavirus on our website.

We hope you have found this helpful. We recognise that things are tough at the minute. We are here at Pancreatic Cancer UK to support you. If you need any help or information then you can contact our Support Line nurses.

As always thank you for reading our blog, and please stay safe.

Lynne & Emma