14 May 2020

A new advice line for St Helens residents has launched this week to offer advice and rapid access to those who are experiencing symptoms they’re worried may be cancer.

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has set up a telephone call centre for people to speak directly to a specialist nurse who can discuss the symptoms and offer advice on the next steps to take.

John McCabe, Consultant Surgeon said: “We want to hear from you if you are worried. It is vital that during the Coronavirus pandemic we don’t ignore symptoms that may be a sign of something that needs urgent attention. Cancer services are still going ahead at our hospitals and we want to make sure that people are having the tests they need and any treatment required as soon as possible.”

You can ring the advice line on 01744 646 222, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm

If they think you need to see a specialist quickly or have some tests, they will organise that for you. If they think that you don’t need to see a specialist, or have tests, they may recommend you contact your GP or will make an appointment for you.

 Pat Gillis, Cancer Services Manager said: “It is natural that during these times people are concerned about going to a hospital or to their GP surgery, but it is really important that people don’t delay seeking help. If you call our specialist nurses they can offer reassurance and make sure people are getting the help and support they need as soon as possible.

If you do need appointments with our hospital specialists, appointments will be given for either a telephone chat, video call or we may suggest you need a face to face appointment. If you do need to come into hospital, then every precaution is being made to ensure the safety of our patients.”


Patient story:

Barry Cave, 73, Haydock, is married with a son and a daughter.

Barry was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had major surgery in February, at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.


Barry says: “Around Christmas time, I started to experience symptoms. I was losing a lot of weight and was suffering from diarrhoea with blood too. I’m not a doctor person, typical man you could say, but I went to my GP who was really good. I probably hadn’t been the GP for years before that, but I thought it needed to be checked.

My GP told me that I needed tests and referred me to St Helens Hospital. I was seen quickly, scanned and my consultant Mr Samad confirmed the worst, I had a tumour on my bowel and it needed removing.


This was February, just as the Coronavirus was hitting in this country and everything was going crazy. If it wasn’t for Mr Samad I would have just given up, but he pushed for my operation to go ahead. I was really worried, I knew I had to have the operation but I was also concerned about going into hospital and catching Coronavirus. If I caught it I’d have double the problems, the virus and cancer, and that was terrifying.

But Mr Samad told me that cancer doesn’t stop because of coronavirus, and that it was important that I didn’t wait, if I left it then it was only going to get worse.

I had the operation within two of weeks and stayed in hospital for 6 days. In the hospital, the staff were in their masks and wearing protection, but I felt totally at ease, they were doing such a wonderful job of protecting people. They are absolutely magnificent people, I can’t praise them enough.

I can’t fault Whiston or St Helens hospitals for their care and attention, its been such a worry for me and my family, but they put me totoally at ease. Even though I wasn’t allowed visitors due to the restrictions, they kept my wife completely informed of what was going on, they made me feel so safe and relaxed.


If I was to offer any advice at all to people it would be ‘don’t be put off, speak to the doctors and nurses and tell them the truth, believe me they are top of the league.’


Its been such a pressure off my mind to come through this. I’m putting on weight now and feeling so much better. I got the call to say it was good news and because it had been caught early, they managed to remove all of the tumour and I now don’t need to have chemo. If I’d have left it till the virus was over then I don’t like to think about what would have happened.


My message is this – never mind coronavirus, there are other things that are urgent too. Speak to the people at the hospital, they will do everything they can to protect you.