Dave, Healthwatch volunteer, recently had need of accessing the NHS for non COVID-19 reasons.

Shortly after the New Year I discovered a ‘lump’ which had appeared on my forehead. I thought I would wait a few days to see if it would just disappear – it didn’t.

I then decided to see a doctor and realising how much under pressure surgeries are at the moment, I went onto my surgery’s website on 20th January and opted for the ‘e-consult option’.

This involved filling in questions about my condition and attaching a couple of photos of the offending lump. Having submitted the form a message popped up saying I would receive an answer within two days. The next morning, I received a text message from my GP saying she had made an appointment for me to see her on the following Tuesday 26th January.

On arrival at the surgery, I noticed  that the waiting room was devoid of many of the usual amount of chairs and those that remained were ‘socially distanced’, the touch screen checking in was switched off and I booked in with the receptionist who checked my temperature with a ‘no touch’ digital thermometer. All staff were wearing masks and PPE as appropriate.

After being called in for a consultation, my GP measured and took a photograph of the lump, and during a refreshingly frank discussion said she was going to refer me to the Dermatology Clinic at Bedford Hospital on a ‘2 week wait referral’ which I knew from my recent activities with the NHS is to confirm or rule out cancer. I told her that I had suspected it may be skin cancer and she agreed it was a possibility but that we had caught it early.

The appointment at the Dermatology Clinic came through for 9th February, and I was immediately impressed by the measures taken at Bedford Hospital to make it Covid-safe; reduced waiting room capacity with chairs ‘socially distanced’, hand sanitising gels and facemasks available at almost every turn, digital thermometer temperature check before each consultation or procedure and all staff in PPE. The doctor took another photo of the lump and said she would refer me to the Maxillofacial Surgeons for its removal, and that it did appear to be a Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

My appointment with the surgeon came through for Tuesday 2nd March, and after examining the lump he said that he would schedule me in for its removal within the next 2-3 weeks. It would be done under local anaesthetic and would take about 20 minutes and I should only be in the hospital for about an hour!

Two days later on Thursday 4th March I had a phone call from the hospital asking if I could attend for the procedure the following day at 2:30pm – which I obviously did.  The surgeon and two nurses who were in attendance were magnificent; keeping me informed throughout the procedure on what they were doing and checking all the time that I was OK.

The offending ‘lump’ has been sent for biopsy and I await the result. I have to return on 17th March for removal of the stitches (I think they call them sutures) after which I will be told of any further treatment or monitoring which may be needed.

The point of this blog is to get the message out that the NHS is open for business despite Covid-19, and perhaps more importantly, if you notice any ‘lumps’ of other changes in your body, GET IT CHECKED – it may be nothing, but why take a chance?