Thousands of people are going to suffer unduly or die because they are not seeking medical attention for non-COVID-19 related conditions and symptoms. That’s the stark warning to come from charities and medical organisations as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Cancer charities in particular have expressed their concern as patients – some of whom are in the middle of treatment – are no longer attending appointments or accessing care.
It is thought that as awareness of the pandemic spreads, many patients are avoiding hospitals because they are scared of contracting COVID-19. Others are choosing to “soldier on” so that medical facilities don’t become overburdened and can concentrate on helping patients who need more pressing care.
Figures released by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, which collects data from 50 trusts in England, shows there were 75,065 emergency attendances in the week commencing 23 March 2020, down from 95,876 the previous week – a drop of 21.71%.
People should still utilise A&E departments
Speaking about the situation, Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “If patients are staying away for fear of being a burden on the system, but do have a genuine health problem, they absolutely should still go to their emergency department.”
In addition, the number of people going to Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments with heart attack symptoms dropped from 300 per day at the beginning of March, to 150 per day by the end of March.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, a consultant cardiologist and associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said that while these are uncertain times, people with heart attack symptoms should not delay seeking medical help. People who experience symptoms such as an immediate and sudden pain in the chest, which spreads to the arms, back, neck or jaw, as well as heavy or tight breathing, should always call 999 in the first instance.
Cancer treatment rates down by half
Charities and medical organisations have echoed this advice, warning that staying away from hospitals now could result in further health problems and earlier deaths down the line.
Cancer Research UK said treatment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen by as much as 50% in some parts of the country. In other words, thousands of patients have had their treatment stopped or delayed. As a result, diagnoses could be late and further treatment delayed, leading to potentially fatal consequences.
In response to the decline in the number of people attending A&E, the government is launching a major public awareness campaign to stress that the NHS is still there for those that need it.
It is understood that advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi is working on the campaign, for free, and it is expected to be launched in the next few weeks.
It’s important at this point that customers understand the digital help they still have under their private medical insurance policies. If customers are experiencing symptoms and worried about any health issues, they should use their online services available to them with their policies. It is worrying for members of the public that don’t have a private plan as although they are trying to alleviate the burden on the NHS at present, this may come back two-fold at a later date.
Rebekah has worked for Premier Choice Group since 2009, and today develops our consumer client base. Working within a strong team of consultants, Rebekah maintains a high service level set out for our clients whilst building and retaining sound relationships throughout the company’s portfolio.