Doctors in Devon are reassuring local people that the NHS is still there for them if they are unwell and need help.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has warned that delays in getting treatment due to coronavirus fears pose a long term risk to people’s health.
The message comes as new findings that four in 10 people are too concerned about being a burden on the NHS to seek help from their GP. Clinicians are concerned that some people who would benefit from urgent medical help may not be receiving it. People may be worried about coming to hospitals at this time. However, precautionary measures are in place and there are real dangers in not seeking help for serious conditions.
Nearly all of Devon’s GP practices offer online consultations, which allow patients to access services from their smartphone, tablet or computer. All GP practices can now offer video consultations too.
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.
GP practices in Devon are setting up dedicated sites where patients who have, or may have, COVID-19 can be assessed and treated for the virus and other conditions.
Dr Alex Degan, a GP in Mid Devon and Primary Care Medical Director for Devon, said: “We are following national guidance about reducing unnecessary face-to-face contact, and this includes within healthcare settings.
“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.
“We are working closely with GP practices across Devon to ensure that patients who need to be seen, can be seen safely, limiting exposure to staff and other patients.
“Patients should continue to contact their practice in the normal way, online or by phone, and if they then need to be seen, it may be at another location rather than their normal practice.
“If you have been invited for routine immunisations, it’s important that you or your baby or child still come in for these. They protect against serious and potentially deadly illnesses and stop outbreaks in the community. I urge people to contact their practice and discuss with them the safest option to be seen.”
“Our message is simple – we are still here for you if you need help.”
People can continue to order repeat prescriptions on the NHS App and through their GP surgery or pharmacy’s online service, where available. If you need to collect a prescription and have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating at home – please arrange for a friend, relative or volunteer to collect for you.
Dr Michael Marsh, South West Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement said: "There is capacity across South West to treat all those needing urgent and emergency care, and we want patients to continue to access services. While patients have rightly responded to the expert advice on staying at home, they should still seek medical help when they need it."
“It’s important that people do not delay seeking help with serious time critical conditions, as this could result in poorer outcomes for their health further down the road.
“People should continue to call 999 and attend the A&E Departments if they believe they have a serious illness, for example if they or a loved one see the signs of stroke, severe chest pain or worsening asthma. In addition, people can call their GP surgery if they are ill or have a health concern.
“The NHS is pulling out all the stops to respond to the biggest global health threat in a century, while trying to ensure that people can still access the services they need in as safe a way as possible.”