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Your NHS is here for you – getting help in an emergency

Published: 17 April 2020

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.”

Ian Currie, Acting Medical Director at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, urged patients to still attend hospital for vital emergency care. He said: “If you become ill please remember we are still here when you need us for urgent care.

“Doctors and care staff are worried that some people with serious possible life-threatening conditions and symptoms are not coming to us for urgent care. This has been shown by the large fall in patients asking for our help who have heart conditions or stroke symptoms since the coronavirus struck.

“We understand why patients might be reluctant to come to a hospital or to call for help from the emergency services in a selfless way, to help us all save lives and reduce pressure on our staff.

“But patients needing urgent medical attention are assured we have introduced measures to separate patients with Covid-19 from those without to ensure all patients are safe from infection whatever they are being treated for by our staff.

“We are very grateful for the support of our community in helping reduce pressure on our services during the pandemic.”

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.”