Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

Article published 29/04/20

With the nationwide lockdown still in full effect, we’re adjusting to a different way of living and interacting with people and services. One area of particular concern is how the pandemic is affecting our access to healthcare. Reports suggest that there has been a 50% reduction in the number of people visiting A&E with suspected heart attacks. This could mean that people are avoiding hospital and putting their lives at risk. 

This article will look at how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the way we manage our health and the recent changes to the healthcare system.

For those who are concerned about the coronavirus

If you believe that you or someone you know has been infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) then the NHS 111 have set up an online coronavirus resource. Consult this website in the first instance if you have the main symptoms, which are:

  • A high temperature – if you feel hot to the touch on either your back or chest. 
  • A new, continuous cough – this is defined as coughing a lot for over an hour, or 3 or more coughing fits in a 24 hour period. 

This NHS service will ask you about the symptoms you’re experiencing and advise on the next steps you should take. 

Guidance for those seeking non-urgent medical help

If you need medical assistance, it’s important that the coronavirus doesn’t stop you from seeking it. By leaving a suspected condition and not getting help, your health is being put at unnecessary risk.

There are a few considerations you should take before leaving your home to visit a pharmacist, GP or other medical professional. Although face-to-face appointments will still be required in some cases, you should avoid going out without first assessing your options from home.

The NHS has lots of information available on:

You can read more about how to get medical help from home on the NHS website

Minimise risk by using online services

Not only is it important that you receive the medical assistance you may need whilst in lockdown, it’s equally vital to protect yourself if you have an ongoing condition that requires regular prescription medication. Pharmacy2U can help if you need an NHS repeat prescription. You can order online and we deliver your medication directly to your door, for free. Registration is simple, only takes a few minutes and you’ll have peace of mind that your prescriptions are taken care of, without the need for unnecessary journeys or queues.

Find out more on the importance of taking your medication as prescribed during lockdown. 

Contacting your GP

If you’re unable to find sufficient help on the the NHS website and you feel a visit to your GP is still required then follow these simple steps: 

  1. In the first instance you should either call or contact them via their website. You can find your GP surgery web details here. By speaking to your GP surgery first, they may be able to help you without the need to go in person. They could also schedule a phone or video call with a GP, nurse or another healthcare professional.
  2. If you have to go in, they can also advise on the measures to be taken to help minimise risk during your visit.  

This ensures you’re only visiting the surgery if it’s absolutely essential. Non urgent cases are being told to expect delays. As our medical director Dr Nitin Shori states in a Daily Mirror article, it’s important to contact your GP in advance so that “you can work out together whether it’s safe to wait or whether you do need to be seen”.

What to do in an emergency

If you need urgent medical help, you should use the regular NHS 111 online service, rather than the service specific to coronavirus. You should call 111 if you need urgent help for a child under 5 or cannot get help online.

You should still go to hospital in a serious or life-threatening emergency, or if you feel very unwell. By delaying a visit to A&E you could potentially be risking your life. For life-threatening emergencies, you should call for an ambulance and avoid going straight to A&E by yourself.

When calling, make sure to give them as much information as possible. It’s important that you tell them if you’re in one of the groups of people considered to be at higher risk of infection. The operator will then be able to advise you on next steps.

Dental treatment

All routine dental treatment has been stopped at the moment but if you think you need urgent dental treatment, you should call your dentist – do not visit them in person. You can also use the NHS 111 online service if you cannot contact your dentist or you do not have one. They’ll give you advice or help you contact an urgent dental service or arrange treatment if needed.

You should not contact your GP as they cannot provide dental treatment.

In summary, healthcare services for issues unrelated to the coronavirus are still available, and you should still seek help if you feel it’s necessary.