During these uncertain times of isolation and social distancing, it’s easy to worry about others without looking after ourselves.
And while there’s growing concern – quite rightly – about the impact of the lockdown on mental health, the physical health consequences could be just as profound.
Worrying drop in cancer diagnoses
A growing number of people may be ignoring signs and symptoms that warrant medical treatment for fear of overwhelming the NHS or contracting coronavirus itself, including potentially deadly conditions like cancer.
A survey by Portland revealed that a third of people would worry about seeking help – with one in 10 people not contacting their GP even if they discovered a lump or new mole which didn’t go away after a week. And A&E doctors are concerned that their departments are “eerily quiet” with people who should be receiving urgent care staying at home. Cancer referrals have dropped by two-thirds in some places – with medical experts worried that a wave of patients could die because of late prognosis.
NHS has shown it can cope
But the pandemic has proven that the NHS has been resilient in times of crisis and has risen to the challenge, helped by the lockdown measures that ensured services could cope with coronavirus patients requiring treatment.
“We must not forget what the NHS stands for,” says Jonathan as he sends a message to the public.
“It’s the National Health Service and it’s there for all of us when we need it, for all of our health concerns. Indeed, even during the most stringent lockdown restrictions, medical needs was a clear exception to the rules surrounding leaving the house.
“We must continue to use the NHS’s services even during this crisis, whether that is attending a pharmacy, GP or hospital, to ensure that any health concerns are addressed. Whilst it may look and run a bit differently with appropriate safeguards in place for patients and staff alike, ignoring or delaying seeking treatment can have far wider consequences for patients and the NHS.”
Consequences seen first-hand
Jonathan’s plea is heartfelt – he’s seen time and again the consequences of delays to diagnosis and treatment, albeit in very different circumstances and reasons.
“Throughout the years, we’re approached time and time again about a seeming delay in diagnosis or treatment, with huge consequences for the client,” he says.
Delays can be deadly
Jonathan and the medical negligence team have seen the heart-breaking medical outcomes that are often caused by delays. They include bleak cancer prognoses that may have been more easily treatable, avoidable amputations resulting from untreated diabetes or vascular problems, and spinal problems that have unnecessarily led to incontinence. The list goes on.
“The delay can have a devastating impact on the family it affects and their finances.”
The same principle applies to people now more than ever, to ensure that they are seeking treatment where needed.
A final plea
Jonathan has this final plea to people across the UK:
“Delaying could have a huge impact on the individual, but it can also affect the NHS. It costs the NHS far more in time, equipment, resources and staff to treat a more advanced condition than it would have been if it had been identified and treated in its infancy.
“For your own benefit and to protect the NHS in the long-term, if you have health concerns, ensure that you don’t delay in seeking help.”
Where to go for help
If you have any symptoms that would normally concern you, please don't hesitate to contact your GP surgery or in emergencies your local A&E department. To check symptoms and find out more about where to get help, go to 111.nhs.uk