Freeman urges people not to ignore 'warning signs' as A&E figures plummet

The Scottish health secretary is warning people not to ignore vital signs of serious conditions as attendance figures at A&E dropped by more than half compared to the same week last year.

Scottish A&E attendance figures down by 57 per cent

Jeane Freeman urged patients to keep attending hospital as waiting time figures for the week ending 5 April show that 92.7% of people were seen and treated within four hours.

This comes on the back of comments made by the interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith last week who said that parts of the health service are now “eerily quiet” and doctors fear people are not seeking medical help for illnesses and symptoms unrelateed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Dr Smith warned sick people should still go to their doctors or to hospital if they are unwell, and that medics were finding the lack of non-coronavirus cases “disconcerting”.

His warning came after National Records of Scotland (NRS) published the first of a weekly series of reports that will count all deaths in which coronavirus is recorded as being relevant.

The NRS figures are due to be published again tomorrow.

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Figures published daily by the Scottish Government only show the number of patients who have tested positive in hospital for the virus, and those who have subsequently died.

Ms Freeman said: “The A&E waiting times figures for the week ending April 5 show that 92.7% of people were seen and treated within four hours.

“This is due to the continued hard work and dedication of staff in our NHS who are providing an exceptional level of care during these extraordinary times. Each and every one of you has my very grateful thanks.

“While members of the public are continuing to listen to advice and only going to A&E if illnesses are immediate or life threatening, I would like to remind people not to ignore early warning signs of serious conditions.

“If you have new symptoms then it’s vital you get this checked out either by contacting your GP, or if symptoms are urgent by attending A&E.”

She added: “We are working closely with health boards and partnerships to ensure robust plans are in place to strengthen capacity and minimise the impact of COVID-19 across the health system.”

According to the Scottish Conservatives there were 11,263 attendances at A&E for the week ending 5 April 2020 compared to 26,240 for the week ending

7 April 2019 - a drop of 57 per cent.

Scottish Conservative Health Spokesperson, Miles Briggs, said: “Attendances at A&E across Scotland have reduced by over half, compared to this time last year. The British Heart Foundation and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland have both put out a clear message, if you think you're experiencing a heart attack or a stroke, call 999 immediately.

“People might be worried about putting extra pressure on NHS Scotland during the Coronavirus epidemic, or scared that they are putting themselves at risk of catching Coronavirus. A&E services are designed to deal with immediate and life threatening conditions and will remain fully functional throughout the Coronavirus lockdown.”

Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “Stroke and heart attacks don’t stop because of coronavirus; they can happen at any time and anywhere.

“Coronavirus is at the forefront of our minds right now, but it's vital that people don’t forget that these are medical emergencies. NHS staff are on-hand to help you and save people’s lives.

“By the end of today, 25 people across Scotland will have had a stroke and 31 people will have a heart attack. The same will happen tomorrow.

“It is important that you don’t ignore the signs and symptoms and call 999 immediately.

“These symptoms aren’t something for deliberation, you must act quickly. It could save your life.”

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour MSP, said: “There has been a huge push to free up NHS capacity in recent weeks so that frontline staff can focus on coronavirus, however, an unintended consequence of this is people who genuinely need medical attention are also staying away.

“No-one should put off contacting the NHS if they have worrying symptoms.

“Whilst the Scottish Government has already said that the NHS remains open, it’s obvious that message needs to be continually repeated so that it gets through to the public.”

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