As the NHS nationally is reminding the public that it is still ‘open for business’, the North East’s health leaders have renewed calls for people to seek medical help if they need it.
The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System is supporting the national campaign and echoing that the NHS ‘is still here for you’.
The plea comes as emerging evidence shows that there has been a vast reduction in the number of people who are seriously ill in the North East and North Cumbria accessing NHS help, including young children.
Dr Stephen Bruce, a consultant paediatrician at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside, said: “We’ve seen lower numbers of youngsters being brought to our children’s unit at our Northumbria hospital (in Cramlington) since the coronavirus pandemic took hold which is concerning.
“Children who are not well can deteriorate very quickly if not treated and we would urge parents and carers not to put off seeking NHS help if their child needs to.
“Please don’t be deterred by worrying that you may catch coronavirus – we’re following the strictest infection control policies and it’s worth making your child aware that our staff will be wearing personal protective equipment so they are not alarmed.
“While we’ve had to cancel our non-urgent outpatient activity, urgent appointments are still going ahead and we’d urge parents of children with appointments to attend as normal – they are taking place as they are important.”
There has been a significant decrease in the number of people presenting with stroke and transient ischaemic attacks (mini strokes) in the region. For strokes and heart attacks, early diagnosis and treatment of warning symptoms can reduce the risk of recurrence, heart failure and even death.
The number of people being referred for suspected cancer is also significantly down, with GPs reporting that fewer people are accessing them for advice.
There has also been a large reduction in patients with chest pain seeking urgent medical advice and, as a result, hospitals are performing far fewer diagnostic and treatment interventions.
The key messages from the national campaign are:
If you need medical help, the NHS is still here for you;
If you need medical help from your GP practice, contact them either online, by an app or by phone to be assessed;
If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service. If you cannot get help online, call 111;
If it’s a serious or life-threatening emergency, call 999;
If you are told to go to hospital, it is important that you go to hospital;
You should continue to attend your appointments, unless you have been told not to attend.
Staff in GP surgeries recently thanked people in Northumberland for their support so far, but also urged people to contact their practice if they need immediate care for urgent and persistent health conditions and not to delay doing this due to assumptions about staff workloads or concerns about contracting COVID-19.