NHS hospital teams across Devon are reassuring local people that emergency services are there for them if they are unwell and need help.
Doctors are concerned that some people who should be getting medical help for non-COVID-19 illnesses are staying away from hospital and not seeking help due to fears they might catch the virus.
Attendances have fallen by more than a third at emergency departments across Devon, in line with national trends. Some of this may be because people are acting responsibly and getting advice from other healthcare settings. However, at all hospitals, the numbers of people being admitted with serious problems such as heart problems and strokes are substantially reduced, suggesting that some cases are not being diagnosed.
Dr Rob Dyer, Lead Medical Director for Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, said: “Although it is helpful that the pressure on our hospitals has been reduced by people keeping away unless they really need to attend, we are concerned that some people who would benefit from urgent medical help may not be receiving it.
“It is understandable that people may be worried about coming to hospitals at this time. However, we want people to know that precautionary measures are in place and that there are real dangers in not seeking help for serious conditions.
“Hospitals and GP practices across Devon have put in place special measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19, whether they are treating a patient with symptoms of the virus, or for other illnesses. In many cases those affected by the virus are being seen in separate areas.
“We are still here for you if you need help.”
Paediatricians are also concerned parents may not be getting help for their children when the need it.
The message from paediatric consultants in Devon is: “If you’re a parent with a seriously unwell child, we want you to know that the NHS is here for you.
“If you have to go to A&E there will be special arrangements in place to protect you and your child from the risk of infection.
“COVID-19 is putting the NHS under a lot of pressure but children still get sick and we want you to connect with us when this happens.”
Doctors are reminding people of these key points:
- If you or someone you know has a life-threatening injury or illness, such as severe chest pain, bleeding, loss of consciousness or signs of a stroke, call 999 or go to your nearest accident and emergency department
- Some hospital procedures, operations and clinics are continuing to take place in Devon. Hospitals are making their own local arrangements which may change over time. You should not attend any appointment if you are self-isolating due to COVID-19 or have been informed by the hospital not to attend.
- GP practices in Devon remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need to see your GP, for example for back pain, arthritis or asthma, contact your practice via their website or by phone. Your consultation may be via phone, video or in person.