Some cancer care could be stopped during the coronavirus crisis, the NHS chief executive has said.

Sir Simon Stevens also suggested private hospitals in some cities have agreed to stay clear of taking coronavirus patients in order to become cancer care specialist hospitals during the outbreak. He said cancer care could stop if clinicians and patients agree that it would be too risky for them to travel.

Speaking at the daily press briefing yesterday, he added that frontline staff will find themselves in ‘highly stressful and pressurised circumstances’.

Sir Simon explained: ‘We have been clear that we do want essential and urgent cancer treatments to continue but that cancer specialists should have the opportunity, with their patients, to decide whether it is more risky for someone to embark on treatment at this particular time given that you are more vulnerable to infection if you begin a course of treatment, such as chemo, and become immuno-compromised as a result.

‘Those are clinical decisions that will need to be taken.’

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He continued: ‘We also have agreed a landmark deal with all the independent hospitals across the country which has given us the opportunity to look after patients away from the busy hospitals that are treating coronavirus.

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‘In London, for example, the Royal Marsden is co-ordinating cancer care right across the capital so that even if patients aren’t being looked after by their local hospital, they will be getting the care they need.’

Concluding the press conference, Sir Simon said: ‘Unfortunately, pressure on the NHS is going to intensify over the coming weeks – there’s no doubt about that before things hopefully begin to improve – and so this is going to be a time when a lot of our frontline staff are going to be in highly stressful and pressurised circumstances.

‘I think what they would want me to say to the rest of the country is know this: that everybody is pulling out all of the stops to do the right thing and if you can help too, by following the measures that have been set out, staying at home, you will save lives.’

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