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Image of Dr Dan Cottingham sat in a GP office wearing a pink shirt, NHS lanyard and Macmillan name badge. Dan is wearing glasses and smiling. There is a computer screen and book shelf behind him.

Healthcare Professionals urge public to ‘help us help you’ by getting cancer symptoms checked and attending routine appointments

By | Cancer Alliance

Healthcare professionals across the Humber, Coast and Vale (HCV) region are appealing for the public to contact their GP if they are worried about a symptom that could be cancer, as new research found that nearly half (48%) of the public would delay or not seek medical help at all.

A fifth (22%) would not want to be a burden on the health service while a similar number said that fear of getting coronavirus or passing it onto others was a major reason for not getting help.

Health and care professionals from across the HCV region, have pulled out all the stops to keep cancer services going

Image of Dr Dan Cottingham sat in a GP office wearing a pink shirt, NHS lanyard and Macmillan name badge. Dan is wearing glasses and smiling. There is a computer screen and book shelf behind him.

Dr Dan Cottingham, CRUK GP Lead

throughout the pandemic, with over 90% of patients urgently referred being seen by a specialist within two weeks.

Dr Dan Cottingham, Cancer Research UK GP Lead for HCV Cancer Alliance said: “People should not hesitate to get help if they are worried about a symptom that may be cancer, such as:

  • unexplained blood that isn’t from an obvious injury
  • a lump
  • weight loss which feels significant
  • an unexplained pain that lasts three or more weeks

“Cancer is easier to treat when it’s caught at an earlier stage and we are asking members of the public to help us help you by coming forward for a check that could save your life.” Dr Stuart Baugh, Clinical Director for HCV Cancer Alliance said:

Image of Dr Stuart Baugh standing in front of a brick wall. Stuart is wearing a suit and is looking at the camera smiling.

“People who have already been invited for an appointment are encouraged to attend, whether that be a routine screening appointment, an invitation for treatment or an appointment with your GP.

“Healthcare providers have introduced a range of measures to ensure the safety of patients and staff, including the use of PPE, COVID-secure areas, and phone or virtual appointments.

“To highlight the measures that have been put in place at Trusts within the HCV region, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust have created virtual ‘walkthrough’ videos and patients are advised to watch the video or contact their medical team should they have any concerns about accessing NHS services during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust

A photo of non-alcoholic gins provided to the ladies at the Gyn and Tonic cancer support group. They're in small bottles, one is pink and one is blue.

Support Group Saturday: Gyn & Tonic

By | Living with and Beyond Cancer | No Comments

Gyn & Tonic is the name of the Gynaecology support group for North Lincolnshire and the surrounding area. Here, Pat Chennells, Macmillan Information Facilitator at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, tells us a bit about what they do.

The group has been meeting every month since January 2018 at Robert Holme Hall, Scunthorpe General Hospital. The group was established

A photo collage of different Christmas wreaths made by the women at the Gyn and Tonic cancer support group. There are images of women holding the wreaths and images of the wreaths on their own.

The group hosts seasonal craft activities – including Christmas wreath making.

following a consultation with ladies with gynaecological cancer led by the Gynaecology Clinical Nurse Specialist and the Macmillan Information Advisor.

The name of the group was chosen by the members who attended the first meetings, obviously a play on Gin & Tonic, the Gyn for gynaecology and tonic because that is what the ladies wanted the group to be. A safe space where they could get to know other ladies going through the same things, a space where they could say exactly how they felt, a space where they could get professional advice in an informal way and, above all, a space where they could laugh and have fun.

There is laughter in all of the meetings, sometimes some tears too, but there is always time for a private chat with another member, the CNS, or the Macmillan Information Advisor.

A photo of non-alcoholic gins provided to the ladies at the Gyn and Tonic cancer support group. They're in small bottles, one is pink and one is blue.

The group have even enjoyed non-alcoholic gins during one of their meetings!

The group meets on the last Wednesday morning of every month and the programme is quite varied with craft activities, quizzes and speakers usually a topic chosen by the ladies. There is also lots of tea, coffee and biscuits and if you’re really lucky… cake! We have even had a gin and tonic tasting session, non–alcoholic of course!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have started meeting using a virtual platform and whilst it has been good to see each other the ladies are desperate to meet each other face to face again as soon as the current situation allows. While they’re better than no meeting at all, virtual meetings simply don’t replace the face to face group meetings we’re used to and we can’t wait until we can safely get together again.



For more information about the support group, contact Pat Chennells. Telephone 03033 305372 and leave a message. On mobile, you’ll catch Pat on 07858 924 283 or email

For information on our other support groups, visit

A hand wearing a blue glove holding a needle representing the flu vaccine.

North Yorkshire and York residents reassured that they will be vaccinated against the flu

By | Living with and Beyond Cancer | No Comments

With flu season fast approaching, NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, along with local authorities want to reassure eligible patients that they will get their free NHS flu vaccination this year – and health partners are working together to ensure people in high risk groups get vaccinated.

The flu vaccination programme in North Yorkshire and York will begin at the start of this month. To reduce the amount of pressure on the NHS, this will be rolled out in phases, with children, care home residents and high risk groups vaccinated first.

GP practices will start sending letters out to eligible patients classed as ‘high risk’ from this month with details on how they can receive their vaccine. Alongside this the school immunisation service will contact parents and carers of children in years reception to (and including) year 7 for consent for their child to have the flu vaccine in school.

High risk patients will continue to be contacted by their GP practices and vaccinated throughout September and October. This includes: residents in care homes or other long-stay care facilities, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, front-line health and social care workers, carers and personal assistants for someone with a Personal Health Budget, those living in a household with people who have shielded and any people in a clinical risk group (aged from six months to less than 65).

This year, in addition to the normal flu vaccination programme, 50 to 64-year-olds who do not have a health condition putting them at risk of the flu will also be eligible for a free flu vaccine later in the year. GP practices will keep this group of patients informed and are likely to invite them for a flu vaccination in November and December once all other higher risk eligible groups have been vaccinated.

Dr Bruce Willoughby, GP Clinical Lead for Primary Care and Population Health at NHS North Yorkshire CCG, said:

“Flu vaccinations are required every year as there are different strains of the influenza virus in circulation each season; immunisation is the best way to help protect people from flu. It’s a virus that has the potential to leave people very poorly, lead to hospitalisation and sometimes even death.

“We know that clinically vulnerable patients who have been shielding during the Covid-19 pandemic are still extremely worried about having contact with anyone outside of their household ‘bubble’, but I want to reassure those patients that practices will have arrangements in place to ensure they can administer vaccinations in a safe and bio-secure way. There will be strict safety measures in place, including social distancing, appropriate PPE, and strict hygiene protocols.”

A headshot of Dr Nigel Wells, Clinical Lead for the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership. He's smiling and wearing a black suit jacket over a wh

Dr Nigel Wells, Clinical Chair of NHS Vale of York CCG added:

“I would urge anyone who’s in a clinical risk group to take up the vaccination offer when they receive the letter from their surgery. It will give them a much-needed layer of protection and there is absolutely no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases the risk of getting Covid-19.

“There are many benefits from flu vaccination and preventing flu is always important, but in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s even more vital we each play our part and do everything possible to reduce illness and protect NHS and health care resources for those who need them the most this winter.”

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health at North Yorkshire County Council said:

“Having the flu vaccination is one of the most important steps people can take to protect themselves and others from flu and we encourage everyone who is eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine to have one this year, gaining early protection from influenza this winter.”

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said:

“This year it is more important than ever that we protect ourselves and each other by getting a flu jab. We are working with partners to ensure people are able to get a flu vaccination as quickly as possible and to ensure high risk groups have access first.

“We will be sharing information throughout the coming weeks and months and I would urge everyone to play their part.”

Patients who do not fall under any of the eligible categories for a free vaccine should not worry as they will also be given the opportunity to be vaccinated at local pharmacies. However, it is crucial that those patients identified as ‘at risk’ are protected first.

For more information about at risk groups and what counts as a clinical ‘at risk group’ go to

Image shows two people sat on seperate benches, looking at each other whilst in conversation. They are surrounded by trees and grass.

Cancer Alliance News – Autumn 2020

By | Cancer Alliance

 Click here to read the latest edition of Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance News.

In this edition, we hear from Dr Stuart Baugh, Clinical Director of Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance as he outlines our plans for recovery and highlights the importance of attending hospital appointments when invited.

Find out about a new Quality of Life survey which launches in September, read about our new virtual Cancer Champion awareness sessions and discover our new online hub where those living with and beyond cancer, their friends and family, or anyone with questions or concerns about accessing NHS services can find useful, reliable and up to date information.

If you would like to feature in our next edition, please email[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Beckie, a girl in her mid-20s, standing in front of a canal in Prague, smiling at the camera. It's night time and the canal is lit up.

Visiting my GP practice during COVID-19: Beckie’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis | No Comments

Beckie, 25, attended her very first cervical screening appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Beckie shares her experience of visiting her GP practice with the new measures in place and explains why it’s so important to attend an appointment if you’re invited.

Cervical cancer often has no early symptoms, which makes it difficult to spot when treatment can be most effective. Because of this, the best way to prevent and treat cervical cancer is by attending a cervical screening appointment when invited.

When I first received my invitation, my first port of call was Jo’s Trust; a cervical cancer charity aiming to provide useful and accurate information on cervical cancer to women and people with a cervix. In the UK, we are invited for a cervical screening appointment (you may have also heard of it being called a smear test) from the ages 25 to 64. Most people receive their first invite up to six months before their 25th birthday, which is exactly when one dropped through my letterbox, too.

Since then, a lot of NHS services have been put on hold or changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so my experience was a little different to what others may have had in the past. Cervical screening appointments, among other national screening programmes, are slowly returning to normality and so, on the 11th August, I jumped in the car and headed to Hessle Grange Medical Practice for my very first appointment.

When I arrived, I was met by signs asking patients to put on their face covering, as well as a hand sanitiser station for me to use. There were clear markings on the floor to show you where to stand to maintain social distancing, and the reception was guarded by a Perspex screen. Many of the waiting room chairs had been taped across so that those waiting could easily keep their distance from other patients.

I was directed to another waiting room, closer to where I’d have my appointment, and the seating again was well spaced out.

Beckie, a girl in her mid-20s,, smiling at the camera. She has blonde hair that's just longer than her shoulders, blue eyes and a piercing in her left nostril.

Beckie says her cervical screening appointment was too important to miss.

I was called into my appointment where the two nurses were also wearing face masks and protective gloves. They instantly made me feel so comfortable, as I’d heard a lot of different things about the cervical screening procedure which had left me feeling a little anxious.

The nurses carefully explained to me exactly what was going to happen and what I could expect to feel. Naturally, I was still feeling nervous but felt confident I was in good hands.

The full screening from start to finish lasted less than five minutes. As the sample was taken, I experienced less than 30 seconds of mild discomfort and felt no pain whatsoever. The nurses talked to me throughout to take my mind off of what was happening and I can honestly say the anxiety building up to the appointment completely outweighed the actual experience.

To others in my position, I would say that this appointment is too important to miss. A moment of slight discomfort is nothing compared to the damage and pain that cervical cancer could cause. For me, being in the know about what is going on with my body, and the fact that I don’t have a potentially life-threatening disease alleviates any worries I had about going to the appointment.

There is nothing embarrassing about doing this, and definitely nothing to worry about. I would encourage anyone who receives the letter to go to their appointment – it could be what saves your life!

Note from Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance

Cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth or tumour. If not caught early, cancer cells gradually grow into the surrounding tissues and may spread to other areas of the body1. In Yorkshire and the Humber and Humber, Coast and Vale, 29% of cervical cancers are detected through screening2.

Cervical cancer often has no early symptoms, which is why it’s important to attend a cervical screening when you’re invited.

If you experience symptoms of cervical cancer at any time, even if you’ve recently attended a screening appointment, get in touch with your GP. Your symptoms might not be cancer, but you should never ignore them. For more information on cervical cancer, visit

Early diagnosis saves lives.

  1. Definition from Cancer Research UK:
  2. Statistic from Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Summary Report 2020

Famous faces urge public to speak to their GP about potential cancer symptoms

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis | No Comments

Linda Nolan and Bill Turnbull are among the celebrities with cancer who have joined NHS doctors in urging the public to come forward for important checks.

The call comes after concerns were raised that people have delayed seeking help due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been shown in the past that celebrities opening up about their cancer diagnoses has led to increases in referrals. Nearly half of the public have said they had concerns about seeking help in the midst of the outbreak, while one in 10 said they would not contact their GP even if they had a lump or a new mole.

Both Linda and her sister Anne, who were part of Irish family pop group The Nolans, recently announced that they had been diagnosed with cancer within days of each other. Linda, 61, has been undergoing treatment for liver cancer, while Anne, 69, has stage three breast cancer. Another sister, Bernie, died of breast cancer in 2013 at the age of 52.

Linda, who is receiving chemotherapy at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “The care I have received has been nothing short of exceptional, and I know people up and down the country have had similar experiences of the heroic work the NHS and staff are doing to continue to deliver the vital care we all need, even as they deal with the ongoing pandemic.

“So, whilst it might seem daunting, it’s important people know they can feel absolutely safe in the hands of the NHS going in for treatments.”

Hospitals have put in extensive measures so patients can get safely tested and treated, and Linda added: “If there is care or treatment you need, don’t delay, and contact your GP or NHS 111 to ask about any symptoms.

“It’s so important people get checked out when they need to. Cancer doesn’t wait, and timing is everything. It might be the very thing that makes all the difference.”

There has been a sharp drop in the number of people coming forward for cancer checks, with 141,643 referred in June compared with almost 200,000 during the same period last year.

Former BBC Breakfast star Bill Turnbull first talked about his diagnosis in 2018, which led to a 36% jump in people being referred for prostate cancer, and it is now the most common cancer in the country. He said: “Cancer is a cruel disease and unfortunately it did not disappear during the coronavirus outbreak. We know that it’s all too easy to put something like this off, but please do contact the NHS if you have any signs of cancer.”

Radio presenter and writer Deborah James, known as “Bowel Babe”, has been sharing her experiences about safely continuing treatment at the Royal Marsden on Twitter. She said: “While coronavirus is the new big C in everyone’s lives, it doesn’t stop cancer killing people, too. It’s still a threat and not just for those who are already diagnosed – you must check yourself for symptoms.

“For anyone who is worried about having their treatment during this time, the NHS is still there for people like me and you – it might look slightly different but the staff and the care remain the same.”

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer, said that waiting to get help can have serious health consequences now and in the future.

He said: “We cannot let Covid become a reason for people not to get checked for cancer – NHS staff up and down the country have worked very hard to make sure that tests and treatment can go ahead quickly and safely.

“Cancers are detected earlier and lives are saved if more people are referred for checks, so our message to you is to come forward – it could save your life.”

Head and shoulder photo of Dr Rumina Önaç, GP and Green Impact for Health lead at The Old School Medical Practice. Dr Onac has her black hair tied back and is wearing glasses. She is looking at the camera and smiling.

Vale of York GP shares experience of adapting to change during coronavirus pandemic

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis | No Comments

Dr Rumina Önaç, GP and Green Impact for Health lead at The Old School Medical Practice in York has shared her detailed experience of caring for patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a blog article posted on the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) website, Dr Önaç gives an open account of the challenges, irritations and positive outcomes which have impacted on how the primary care environment works.

Head and shoulder photo of Dr Rumina Önaç, GP and Green Impact for Health lead at The Old School Medical Practice. Dr Onac has her black hair tied back and is wearing glasses. She is looking at the camera and smiling.

Dr Önaç said: “Whilst lockdown forced the swift reconfiguration of our appointment lists, surgeries worked incredibly hard to find workarounds enabling us to continue to care for patients and protect staff, despite the restrictions.

“Walking through deserted waiting rooms, seeing closed doors and ‘no entry’ signs everywhere, deliberately keeping patients waiting outside rather than welcoming them into our buildings, and avoiding physical contact wherever possible. No human touch. That goes against everything it means to be a doctor!”

However an understanding of patients’ needs has allowed Dr Önaç and her colleagues across practices in the Vale of York to keep up a positive relationship with their patients. She said:

“We’re lucky to get to know patients and families over a number of years, gaining an insight into not just their symptoms but their background, support network, and their highs and lows. This means we have a lot of very useful information to knit together when we’re trying to help patients shape solutions for whatever it is that might be worrying them.”

New ways of working have been put in place within GP surgeries, including an increased uptake of video and telephone appointments. This has enabled concerned patients to be seen without having to leave home and travel to a surgery. Dr Önaç explains some of the other ways patient care has continued:

“Medicines are being dispensed through reception hatch windows at The Old School Medical Practice, or even home-deliveries for some very rural patients up in Stillington, and plenty of consultations have been done through glass doors or windows.”

Dr Önaç also mentions those patients who will have missed the face-to face interaction with their GP practice, such as those with long term conditions, who often feel more of a benefit and reassurance from seeing their nurse or GP in person.

“Staff roles have altered, there have been lists solely devoted to ringing patients with chronic conditions to provide reassurance and offer alternatives like vitamin B12 tablets instead of 3-monthly injections, and reception staff have been key in explaining what to expect when visiting the surgery for patients who do end up coming down for face-to-face appointments. Teams have devised drive-through blood taking clinics and immunisation clinics”

Dr Önaç predicts that the overwhelming camaraderie and enthusiasm to create new ways of doing things will outlast this pandemic, a demonstration of the how well all primary care staff have adapted to new roles and responsibilities to keep primary care running as safely and smoothly as possible.

“Whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like, whenever it occurs, it’s gladdening to know that some of the changes we’ve made are truly improvements that will benefit patients and staff alike, and we should be very proud not only of Primary Care’s swift response to the pandemic, but of our subsequent and ongoing innovation.”

To read the blog ‘Dr Rumina Önaç – After the apocalypse’ in full please visit the NHS Vale of York CCG website:

A team of people standing in front of Hope House Support group building.

Support Group Saturday: Hope House

By | Living with and Beyond Cancer | No Comments

Back in 2012, at the age of 36, Joanne was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, oophorectomy and was given a drug called Anastrozole for ten years. Here, she tells us why she began a support group and what Hope House has done for her local community.


Even with a supportive family, close friends and three small children, my breast cancer diagnosis made me feel isolated. I wanted to ask questions and talk to others in a similar situation. I was 36 and expected to meet others like me but most people I came across were a lot older. They were amazing people but I wanted to see how others in my position had dealt with this, especially concerning my children. I could cope with anything thrown at me; I just didn’t want my children to have to cope with it. During chemo, I used to daydream; I even planned a place called Hope House where people could come together for support.

In January 2014, Bosom Family Support held its first meeting. A local piano school kindly donated £600 for me to get the group going, and we met in a local Village Hall, each with a cup of tea and a slice of cake, ready for a chat. Ten of us met that first night, shedding tears of all kinds as we told our stories one by one. This was the start of our support group.

Reflecting on the session, I knew we couldn’t emotionally process that much crying every time, so we introduced activities. We did everything from Easter bonnet parades, flower arranging and book folding to golf, decoupage and art classes – never forgetting the tea and cake! To date, we have supported around 80 ladies. Some people stay for years, some people come and go as they need us, some people move on after our support and the group simply isn’t for others.

Since then, we’ve gone on to support a group for children called Liferafts. It’s based on the same ideas as Bosom Family Support but specifically for children whose parents have or have had cancer.  Over the years, our meetings have become more about friendship. We’ve gone on bus trips, had afternoon tea, and even formed a choir.

The constant throughout everything was that support was there for the many challenges that people face after a diagnosis of cancer. When the hospital appointments stop, our comfort blanket is removed, I see our group as one that fills a gap. We are not medically trained, nor experts in cancer, but we have an understanding; we know that it is not only an emotional battle but a physical battle as our lives return to this new normal. For someone to be able to say “I get that”, “I understand” or “that happened to me, too” makes us instantly feel less alone. As a group, we have experienced highs and massive lows, and the support that this group has given to one another, especially during those lows, has just been incredible.

A team of people standing in front of Hope House Support group building.
A colourful room used to host a support group for children whose family members have or have had cancer. There's a table football table in the middle of the room and it's surrounded by comfortable sofas, colourful rugs and toys for children of all ages.
Four women from the Bosom Family Support group standing together and smiling. They're behind a table with cakes and biscuits on.
Dozens of large white carrier bags lined up. They contain meals for families ready to be handed out during the UK coronavirus lockdown.

That daydream of Hope House was never far from the back of my mind and, last September, we successfully opened our doors to welcome even more people from the local community. Hope House is always buzzing with different activities held there; the cuppa and chat, the treatment room, the counselling room and the children’s room. It is a warm, welcoming and friendly place to visit. It’s a hub where we can help all members of the family after a cancer diagnosis – cancer doesn’t just affect the patient.

Like many others, our world came to a standstill back in March and I really struggled to think of how we could continue to help others. We did the online quizzes, discos, but knew those having active treatment for their cancer would be struggling as they had to shield at the same time.

We came up with the idea to deliver a nutritious meal to families once a week so they had one less thing to worry about. At the beginning, we thought we could run it for around four weeks, but we’re now into August and have provided over 2800 portions of food to approximately 73 families. We’ve had fantastic support from The Wortley Hotel, local Lions Groups, Rotary Groups and other local businesses and are now able to fund the meals until the end of September.

More recently, we’ve been able to reopen the doors at Hope House to resume counselling and are planning a phased return to normal from September. We can’t wait to get back to providing support to anyone in our local community affected by cancer because we know that no one should face cancer alone.


For more information about our group, please contact Jo on You can find the group on Facebook here.

For a map of cancer support groups in the Humber, Coast and Vale area, click here to head to our directory.

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