As a second wave of Covid-19 grips the country and winter approaches, the Government must strike a balance in its messaging to ensure the public know the NHS is safe and open to those who need medical attention for issues not related to Covid-19, Medical Protection said today.
The warning comes as a YouGov survey of adults in Great Britain, commissioned by Medical Protection, found that 4 in 10 (39%) of those who needed medical attention for a non Covid-19 illness or injury during the first wave of the virus – or had a family member needing medical attention - waited longer than a week or even more than a month before seeking help - or they did not seek help at all.
Of those who delayed or did not seek medical attention, 35% did not want to bother NHS staff already under pressure. 33% felt that an issue not related to Covid-19 would not be considered a priority, and 19% thought they were adhering to the Government's "stay at home" advice. 17% said the Government created too much fear in their desire to protect the NHS from a deluge of patients.
When asked what they or their family member experienced as a result of delaying or not seeking medical attention, 44% reported ongoing pain or suffering, 32% said the illness or injury got worse, and 30% said there had been a longer delay before receiving a diagnosis or treatment. 2% said their illness or injury had become untreatable and a further 2% said the delay led to the death of a relative.
MPS – the world’s leading protection organisation supporting over 300,000 healthcare professionals – said lessons should be learned from the first wave of the virus, or patients will suffer and doctors will be playing catch up and be embroiled in medicolegal disputes for a long time to come.
Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said: “As we tackle a second surge of Covid-19, approach winter, and are seeing a number of local lockdowns, there is a careful balance to be struck between protecting the NHS so it can focus on Covid-19, and ensuring people can – and feel able to – seek medical attention for non Covid-19 issues when they need it. If people are too fearful to come forward for help, there will be long term ramifications for patients and doctors.
“There are a range of reasons why people delayed or did not seek medical attention when it was needed between March and July – including fear, consideration for NHS staff, and not feeling like they were priority. Sadly, many went on to experience worsening or now untreatable conditions, longer delays until they can receive treatment, or even the death of a loved one.
“Doctors have also suffered the consequences from people not seeking help straight away. Many patients who eventually sought help, have been added to the already extensive referral backlog which exhausted doctors are desperately trying to clear. Doctors will also become embroiled in medicolegal disputes over who is to blame for delayed diagnoses, ongoing suffering or a death of a family member, which is why we are calling for legal protection for doctors.
“A repeat of the situation during the first wave of the virus must be avoided.”
Notes to editors
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.Total sample size was 2049 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd - 24th September 2020.The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Full results available on request.
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The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.
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