'I deserve a chance too': Shrewsbury woman's urgent cancer op cancelled due to coronavirus

A Shropshire woman has been told that her cancer operation cannot go ahead as the NHS prepares to deal with coronavirus victims.

Maggie Hollick
Maggie Hollick

Maggie Hollick, who had a skin cancer removed from her thigh five years ago, was told it had spread after finding a lump in her groin a few months ago.

She was due to have a major operation to removed lymph nodes at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and had had her pre-op appointment.

But two days before the surgery the 67-year-old retired teacher from Belle Vue, Shrewsbury, was told it was cancelled, despite it being deemed urgent.

She said she felt she deserved a chance of life.

“The surgeon himself rang me and apologised sincerely that he could not go ahead with operations as the hospital was keeping beds free for the coronavirus patients that they expected,” she said.

“He also explained that his expertise was needed in theatres and also ventilators were needed.”

He agreed when Mrs Hollick said that her operation was an urgent one.


“My worry is that my type of melanoma spreads to other parts of my body – I’ve had this now for five months,” she said.

“My surgeon said that he could not promise me a date for weeks, maybe months, and when I said that this may be too late for me he said he did not have an answer. Surely very urgent cancer operations should be still going ahead at some hospital somewhere in the country?”

In a heartfelt plea Mrs Hollick, a widow, said: “Surely I’m as important as another patient who may come in with the coronavirus at some time in the next few weeks. I see on TV empty beds in wards in hospitals in preparation for these expected patients and feel that I deserve a chance too.”

She and her family have asked about having the operation privately.

“I was told that if I had the lymph node operation done privately then that would prevent me having the follow-up immunotherapy with the NHS. Surely in these unique times this could be waived.”

Mrs Hollick said her three children and three stepchildren were desperate to get help for her.

Her sister, Jane, said it was a horrific situation. “Maggie had a carrot of treatment dangled in front of her, only to have it snatched away,” she said.

“She was at the top of the list and I was due to take her to the hospital. This is so heartbreaking, it could be a matter of life and death for my sister.”

A statement from University Hospitals Birmingham said: “We regret that any operation has to be cancelled and acknowledge the distress this can cause to both patients and their relatives. We apologise. However, in view of the pressures posed by coronavirus, the trust is having to make some difficult decisions to allow our staff and resources to be deployed effectively to cope with the current and anticipated pressures.

“The NHS has issued new guidance on management of cancer patients during the coronavirus pandemic (https://www.uhb.nhs.uk/coronavirus-staff/downloads/pdf/CoronavirusCancerManagement.pdf). Specifically, this includes guidance on prioritisation of cancer patients into four priority levels based upon the need for surgery after a clinical review of a life-threatening condition, harm from progression and/or expectation of cure.

“The lowest priority level 3 is for elective surgery which can be delayed 10-12 weeks without any predicted negative outcome.”

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