NHS organisations across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are reminding local residents that they are still open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide urgent medical treatment and support healthcare concerns.
The amount of people going to Emergency Departments has significantly reduced compared to last year, and clinicians are concerned that some patients are not seeking the urgent and emergency help they need for important conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, meningitis, sepsis and cancer.
Many GPs are also finding that fewer people are contacting them to flag early signs of cancer, which would need urgent investigations to take place, or to report deterioration in their long-term conditions, both physical and mental.
Dr Gary Howsam, Chair of NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and a local GP, explains:
“Whilst GP practices, like my own, have moved to speaking with patients on the telephone first, we are still very much open for business and we really do want to speak to any of our patients that have medical concerns. You can speak to your GP from the comfort and safety of your own home via the telephone or an online (video) service. Then if your GP decides you need to be seen in person, you will be offered a face-to-face appointment. All practices are taking appropriate measures to ensure when patients are seen face to face the risk of COVID-19 infection are minimised.
“The NHS is of course busy responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are still here to provide urgent medical treatment for everyone that needs it. It’s really important that you don’t ignore the early warning signs of a potential stroke, heart attack or cancer, because the sooner we see you, the more we can help you.
“In hospitals, our Emergency Departments are treating patients who arrive with COVID-19 (coronavirus) symptoms in a different area to those who arrive with other urgent healthcare needs. If you are concerned about seeking medical help because of COVID-19, I would urge you not to let this stop you from coming to A&E if you need emergency medical help or to contact your GP as you normally would.”
CUH Medical Director Dr Ashley Shaw said: “By looking at attendance figures from before the COVID crisis, we know there must be many people suffering from serious illnesses - like stroke, heart attacks, early signs of cancer and serious infections - who are not coming into the hospital. Some of these may have symptoms that will be similar to COVID, but not all. I would urge anyone with serious symptoms to seek medical help, including coming to the Emergency Department. The quicker we can see you, the better your outcomes. We have separate places within the Emergency Department for treating coronavirus patients to minimise any risk of infection. Our teams are waiting to look after you.”
Medical Director of North West Anglia Foundation Trust, Dr Kanchan Rege, said: “We would of course encourage anyone who requires emergency care to use our services as they usually would. We have been in contact with all those who were awaiting outpatient appointments or surgeries that have had to be postponed. Anyone outside of this group, who we still need to see in clinic will be aware of this and should attend their appointments as per the instruction on their appointment letters. It is really important that we do not allow people with other treatable health conditions to be harmed as a result of the pandemic.”
If you are not sure where to go for medical support, we would recommend you visit https://111.nhs.uk/ in the first instance.