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Matt Hancock claims some cancer patients prefer to receive terminal diagnoses over Skype

Cancer patients are receiving terminal diagnoses over the phone or Skype because many of them prefer it, Matt Hancock said yesterday.

The Health Secretary said many patients would rather be given the bad news that way than a consultant telling them in person.

He said some want to be surrounded by their family rather than being stuck in a hospital.

The minister told MPs: ‘Some people find that receiving bad news at home is better rather than in the unfamiliar circumstances of being in a hospital but of course it should be done in a sensitive way where people have the support around them.’

Cancer patients are receiving terminal diagnoses over the phone or Skype because many of them prefer it, Matt Hancock said yesterday (stock picture)

Cancer patients are receiving terminal diagnoses over the phone or Skype because many of them prefer it, Matt Hancock said yesterday (stock picture)

Appearing before the Commons health select committee, Mr Hancock also pledged action to ensure that fathers can be present throughout their partner’s labour.

It comes amid concern that social distancing rules are leaving women anxious. 

Some hospitals said partners could be present only when women were in the later stages of labour, while many banned partners from attending antenatal appointments, including scans.

The Health Secretary said: ‘I’ve heard loud and clear the call for better access to maternity services during pregnancy and birth. I have taken this up with the NHS. I hope we will be able to make progress.’

The Daily Mail has highlighted concerns about growing moves to replace face-to-face consultations with virtual ones – a set-up which has increased since the coronavirus outbreak. But Labour MP Rosie Cooper, who is on the health committee, highlighted the ‘dreadful downsides’ of this approach.

The Health Secretary said many patients would rather be given the bad news that way than a consultant telling them in person (stock picture)

The Health Secretary said many patients would rather be given the bad news that way than a consultant telling them in person (stock picture)

She said a consultant from Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool had recently called a patient at home and told them ‘that chemo wasn’t working and that it was terminal and nothing could be done’.

She added: ‘Nothing was done to ensure that patient was not on his own. Do you think it is appropriate that we deliver that kind of news over the telephone without ensuring there is some support there?’

Mr Hancock replied: ‘I think the natural instinct of everybody would be to say that that should be given face to face.

‘I’m also aware of some of the evidence that came up through the use of video conferencing that patients prefer to hear bad news when they can be with their family at home – when it is well prepared and organised.

‘We shouldn’t automatically reject the use of telemedicine, even in this scenario.’

He added: ‘We need to learn from how this has been done with an open mind as to what works well, what must return to being done face to face. 

‘Even though there is a huge enthusiasm for technology I wouldn’t have expected any evidence that people prefer to hear bad news over a video conference than face to face and when I saw that I was surprised.

‘But once you think about it you can understand it, if it’s done sensitively.’

However, the Labour MP said: ‘The difficulty is the consultant knows the message they’re going to deliver, the patient doesn’t know what they’re getting. So if you don’t check that they’re with their family then this can cause a drop in the person’s ability to deal with their illness.’








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