The COVID-19 health crisis has changed the way that GP practices are managing their patients but it should not stop those who think they may have symptoms of ovarian cancer from getting the help they need.

GPs still have a responsibility to advise and treat all their patients.  NHS England has advised doctors to carry out all initial patient consultations by phone or online.  But it stressed that this must not mean that patients seeking help for conditions other than COVID-19 do not get treated.

The advice letter states: “This does not mean not advising/treating patients for other health issues where there is clinical need, or unilateral closing of practice doors, rather ensuring that patients are appropriately triaged to the right health professional setting.”

So those worried about their symptoms can contact their GP practice and ask for an appointment to see a doctor.  Although that consultation will probably be by phone or online, it should still allow a friend or family member to be present if needed. 

This advice also applies to people with ovarian cancer who need to see their GP to discuss any concerns.

The two week pathway system for further investigations of suspected cancer will prioritise patients who need to be seen most urgently.  Seeing other patients outside of the two week pathway needs the agreement of their referring GP.  This should be recorded with the reasons given for the decision.

There should be arrangements in place for patients whose referrals are postponed.

Patients may be offered initial telephone or video appointments with hospital clinical staff to avoid clinic attendance and then progress to further investigations and testing if needed.

Those referred for further tests in hospital are likely to be scanned to assess their risk of cancer.  Those who are found to have masses which are likely to be benign can have surgery planned for three to six months time.  Patients with a low risk of cancer can be considered for virtual clinic appointments, such as phone or online, and follow up.  Patients found to have cancer will be referred on to specialist teams for treatment.