The NHS is still here to help!

Published

Opinion by Councillor James Reeder, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Prevention.

Published 19 May 2020.

We are now into week 9 of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I hope like me that you are starting to find your own routine in this new way of living and you are able to take the time to look after your own wellbeing, as well as those around you.

It's encouraging to see from the most recent data, that the efforts we are all making to stay at home and observe the social distancing measures have started to have a positive impact. I would like to thank you for continuing to show such resilience in the face of this challenge. It is protecting our frontline health and care services and saving lives.

You may have heard stories in the national news that the number of hospital admissions have dropped during the pandemic – I certainly have. According to some reports, the number of visits to A&E departments across the UK has dropped by as much as half over the last month and some appointments with GPs have also decreased.

Although the advice remains that you absolutely should not travel to A&E or your doctor’s surgery if you are experiencing any typical symptoms of coronavirus, such as a continuous cough or temperature, I want to reiterate that our health service is open for business for all urgent medical needs.

One report suggested that four in ten people are concerned about being a burden to the health service. Please let me assure you that this is not the case - because of an increase in capacity in the NHS, and the social distancing that you have all been observing, our health services can continue to help you. So please do not put off getting help for any serious medical issues. This could include symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, or seeking medical help for small children.

Getting an early diagnosis for a long terms illness such as cancer can mean treatment is more likely to be successful. This is why it is vital that if you notice something out of the ordinary, you tell your doctor. The chances are that it’s nothing serious, but finding it early makes it more treatable. Get to know what's normal for you - if it isn’t normal for you, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of cancer are bleeding that does not come from an obvious injury, weight loss, loss of appetite or pain that won't go away. If you notice any of these symptoms, you must contact your GP. This is not a comprehensive list, and it is important to know what is normal for you to help you spot any ongoing, unexplained or unusual symptoms sooner. Search 'Be Clear on Cancer’ for more signs and symptoms of cancer.

The ongoing impact of coronavirus in Suffolk means that national and local services are needing to adapt and change, quickly and regularly. Practices are using different methods of contacting patients such as via telephone, video-call, email or text. They are doing this to protect us all, including their staff and volunteers, to protect the services they continue to offer and to do so in as safe a way as possible.

To support social distancing measures, please contact your GP to make an appointment. Please do not turn up at your surgery without an appointment, as all patients will need to be consulted remotely first. This is to ensure that face to face contact is limited as much as possible to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. You can contact your GP, 111 online or call 111 for help. If you are told to go to hospital, you must go. Help us help you get the treatment you need.

Of course, health is not only physical, but emotional also, and I would encourage anyone who is struggling with wellbeing during this time to reach out and seek help. Just as with a physical condition, the sooner you seek support, the sooner we can help you to feel better. There is a lot of useful wellbeing advice at www.healthysuffolk.org.uk

For urgent medical advice, the NHS 111 online website will tell you when and where to get help, and can arrange for you to be contacted by a nurse if needed. Only call 111 if you are unable to get help online. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, or any other medical emergency, you should call 999 immediately. dial 999. https://111.nhs.uk

First Response is a 24/7 helpline offering immediate advice, support and signposting for people with mental health difficulties.

If you are experiencing something that makes you feel unsafe, distressed or worried about your mental health you can now call the helpline on 0808 196 3494.