Family doctors across Hertfordshire are urging people to continue to attend hospital and clinic appointments with a simple message: “The NHS is here to see you safely, even during the lockdown.”
Although there will be restrictions due to the new lockdown rules, GPs, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and other NHS services remain open.
Hospitals have measures in place to see patients safely, including making sure staff are following best practice guidance to minimise the risk of cross-infection, are carrying out extra cleaning in all areas and are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment such as masks and aprons.
Patients can still see a GP for a face-to-face appointment, where clinically appropriate and after being triaged online or following a virtual or telephone appointment.
Screening services, appointments for long term conditions, and checks and treatments for the most serious illnesses such as cancer, stroke or heart disease will continue to go ahead during the lockdown.
Anyone with worrying symptoms, has been waiting for an appointment and notices a change in their condition, or whose condition deteriorates, should talk to their GP immediately.
Dr Nicolas Small, a Hertfordshire GP who chairs the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Our top concern is the health and safety of our patients and staff. We want to assure people that it is safe for them to come for any existing or new appointments. Things may look a little different, but we’ve made it safe for you and we want you to come to your appointment.
“Symptoms like unexpected weight loss, pain or a lump might be the early signs of something more serious. We want people to get these little things checked out, whether it’s a mental health concern or a physical symptom. Most of the time it’s nothing to worry about, but it’s still worth giving us a call.”
Many GPs and other services will offer an initial appointment by phone or a video call, or may ask people to send a photo of the problem area.
GPs will still refer people for treatment or more tests if needed, all of which will be done in a Covid-19 safe setting.
In order to ensure patient safety, people are asked not to arrive at their GP practice without an appointment.
For urgent physical or mental health help when your GP is closed, or for help if you are not registered with a GP practice, go online to NHS 111 or call 111.
All calls are free to this number.
As ever, for very serious life or limb-threatening emergencies, people should dial 999 immediately.