The NHS ‘open for business’ campaign follows new findings that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a decrease in people accessing NHS services for a range of conditions that are not related to coronavirus. Surveying found that 15% of people would not attend hospital during the pandemic if they or a member of their family needed urgent care and 45% have some concerns.
Seeking medical help is one of the four reasons that people can safely leave home, in line with government guidance and the Chief Executive of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, has stressed that the NHS is still there for patients without coronavirus who need urgent and emergency services for stroke, heart attack, and other killer conditions.
The campaign has been created to help address the decrease in people accessing NHS services by reassuring them that they won’t be a burden on the NHS.
Some leading clinicians including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and medical health charities such as the British Heart Foundation and Stroke Association have expressed concerns that people are risking their long-term health, and their lives, by delaying getting the help they need.
Professor Carrie MacEwen, Chair of The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “We are very concerned that patients may not be accessing the NHS for care because they either don’t want to be a burden or because they are fearful about catching the virus.
“Everyone should know that the NHS is still open for business and it is vitally important that if people have serious conditions or concerns they seek help. This campaign is an important step in ensuring that people are encouraged to get the care they need when they need it.”
As well as encouraging people to seek help for urgent health needs, over the coming weeks the NHS will take steps to encourage people to use other vital services – such as cancer screening and care, maternity appointments and mental health support – as they usually would, by demonstrating how frontline teams are delivering them safely.
As part of the NHS’ rapid response to the greatest public health challenge in its history, hospitals have freed up more than 33,000 beds, the equivalent of 50 new hospitals, over the last few weeks.
An unprecedented deal with the independent sector has put their 8,000 beds and 20,000 staff at the NHS’ disposal, and seven Nightingale hospitals have been rapidly set up around the country, providing over 3,500 more beds to help local hospitals ensure all those who need care can get it.
This significant increase in capacity, combined with effective social distancing by the public slowing the spread of the virus, has meant that the NHS has so far successfully been able to meet everyone’s need, with capacity to spare.