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Doctor ‘concerned’ at drop in patients with urgent issues

A Burwell doctor has said he is concerned with the drop in patients contacting his surgery and has urged people to get in touch with their GP if they feel unwell.

Dr Alex Manning, a partner at Burwell Surgery, said there had been a reduction in the number of people seeking help and that this was a problem in practices across the country.

“We are seeing fewer patients than we would expect,” he said. “The Covid-19 cases presenting to us seem to be a slow but steady trickle so far and trauma cases have reduced significantly as you would expect with no-one going out, fewer cars on the road and fewer contact sports.

There has been about a 25 per cent drop in A&E patients at West Suffolk Hospital.
There has been about a 25 per cent drop in A&E patients at West Suffolk Hospital.

“But fewer people are presenting both with urgent ‘non-Covid’ conditions such as heart attacks and strokes, and with urgent symptoms which might suggest cancer.”

“We don’t know why this is the case but the assumption is that people are not presenting either because they are concerned regarding the risks of catching Covid-19 by accessing health services or because they think that the service they need is not available at this time – or too busy.

“This is very concerning as it may imply that people are missing an opportunity to treat illnesses and conditions at an earlier stage which might give better outcomes.”

Staff at the surgery, along with others in the area, have had to change how they work because of coronavirus.

Doctors are working from home, staff have started wearing masks and often appearing behind screens, and waiting rooms have become empty.

But despite the measures, which Dr Manning admitted could have seemed ‘a little off-putting’, he said surgeries were ‘very much open for business’.

“What we want people to do is to contact us first, either electronically or by telephone in order for us to find the safest and most appropriate way of addressing concerns,” he said.

As well as surgeries changing, Dr Manning said hospitals had redesigned their processes in response to the pandemic, which included separate areas and wards for Covid-19 patients and strict infection control procedures.

“A few patients have been extremely reluctant to go into hospital when they are very sick with entirely treatable problems,” he said.

“This includes patients reluctant to access services for their children. It would be a shame to suffer from unnecessary health consequences as a result of this.”

Dr Manning said every visit to a health care professional balanced the benefits against the risks of Covid-19 transmission, but that many people were being too risk averse.

“If we do recommend that you need to be seen in hospital please take this seriously,” he said.

“We are aware of the risks of Covid-19 and we would not be making this recommendation lightly.”

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