STAFF at York Hospital have set up a ‘Covid Secure’ area for the treatment of cancer patients.

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the entire chemotherapy team decamped to the Nuffield Hospital. That was so that patients undergoing chemotherapy - who are vulnerable to infection - could be treated away from the ‘hot zone’ of York Hospital itself.

During the second wave, however, it has been different. Changes have been made to the Magnolia Centre, where cancer patients normally receive chemotherapy, to ensure that it is Covid secure, so patients are once again being treated there.

The centre, on the hospital’s first floor, has its own separate entrance. All patients are given a swab test before their first cycle of treatment. Thereafter, they are screened each time they come for treatment.

A ‘one way system’ has been introduced, screens have been put up in waiting areas and consulting rooms, treatment chairs have been set further apart for social distancing reasons, and the centre has been split into two ‘zones’ to reduce unnecessary contact.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy have to wear masks - not ideal when you are feeling ill already, admits the hospital’s lead chemotherapy nurse Lizzie Walker. But it is for the patients’ own protection.

Staff, meanwhile, have to wear full PPE. “That’s a real challenge,” Lizzie said. “A lot of communication is non-verbal.”



The hardest thing for patients is that no visitors are allowed. Treatment involves sitting in a chair while a cocktail of drugs is dripped into your arm. It can last for up to eight hours. Not having a loved one to keep you company is hard, Lizzie admitted. “But our patients are extremely vulnerable. We have to protect them.”

While cancer treatments and diagnosis have been maintained, the hospital noticed a fall in new cancer referrals, particularly during the pandemic’s first wave. That was ‘most likely as a result of patients not going to their GP to seek advice about their symptoms’, the hospital says.

It says patients with symptoms that could be caused by cancer should consult their GP.