Scotland’s NHS remains open ‘to all patients’, say health chiefs

Health chiefs have stressed to the public that Scotland’s NHS remains open to all patients and not just those with Covid-19, after fears were raised that people with suspected cancer symptoms are not asking to see doctors.

Dr Gregor Smith stressed that Scotland's health service remained open to all patients - not just those with Covid-19

Speaking at a media briefing in Edinburgh today, deputy chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith revealed urgent referrals for suspected cancer are down by almost three-quarters on the weekly average.

He said: “There’s strong evidence that a reduction in people coming forward to seek help has led to lower numbers of urgent referrals for suspected cancer.

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“This is seen not just in Scotland but appears to be a pattern in other parts of the UK, too.”

He added: “GPs are telling me that they are seeing much fewer people coming forward with these types of symptoms and signs.

“There’s been a 72% reduction in urgent suspected cancer referrals compared to the weekly average.

“It leaves me worried that there are people out there that are not seeking help from their GP when they might need it.”

Dr Smith urged people not to ignore signs and to seek advice as they would have done before the outbreak.

Highlighting that attendance at accident and emergency departments is down 54% on the three-year average, he said: “If it was urgent before Covid-19 it remains urgent now.

“Please don’t delay unnecessarily, your NHS remains here for you, please seek help and attention when you need it.”

At the same press conference, the First Minister urged Scots who were struggling to buy food to call a government-backed helpline.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “Help is available. Please ask for support if you need it.”

The SNP leader said for those in the shielded group - around 150,000 people in Scotland - more than 41,000 have had essentials delivered.

She said those who have signed up to the text message service for this in the past week may not yet have had their first delivery but will do shortly.

Ms Sturgeon added: “If you can’t access food for whatever reason, be that because you are shielding, because you are self isolating, or you might find yourself unable to afford food for your family, contact the national helpline.

“Nobody should have to worry about access to food.”

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