Bedford Hospital has confirmed that from 1 February 2020 to 30 April 2020, A&E and Urgent Treatment Centre attendances have fallen by 50% – the lowest number in a decade.
This is just below the national average, with A&E attendance throughout England down by 57% – the lowest since records began in 2010.
The drop in numbers has raised concerns that potentially life-threatening conditions could be going undiagnosed and untreated, leading to worse conditions.
An NHS source told the Guardian newspaper, “The fall in emergency admissions means there are loads and loads of people that are staying away from A&E who really ought to come in. That’s a real worry.
“They are likely to be people with strokes, heart attacks, sepsis, delirium, severe asthma attacks, broken bones and exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
In addition, England’s top cancer doctor, Professor Peter Johnson, has urged people not to hesitate to get checked as new research revealed that nearly half of the public have concerns about seeking help during the coronavirus pandemic.
Getting coronavirus or giving it to their family were among the top reasons that people would not come forward when they have cancer symptoms along with fears that they could be a burden to the health service.
Professor Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer, said: “NHS staff have made huge efforts to deal with coronavirus but they are also working hard to ensure that patients can safely access essential services such as cancer checks and urgent surgery.
“From online consultations to the roll-out of cancer treatment hubs we are doing all we can to make sure patients receive the life-saving care that they need.
“The wishes of patients and their families will always come first, and we have to make sure that people feel safe coming to hospitals, but my message is clear: people should seek help as they always would.
“We know that finding cancer early gives us the best chance to cure it, and ignoring potential problems can have serious consequences now or in the future.”
A major public information campaign has been launched to encourage people to contact their GP or 111 if they have urgent care needs and to attend hospital if they are told they should.
To put patients’ minds at rest, Bedford Hospital issued the following statement: “In light of the current situation with COVID-19, amended processes are in place at Bedford Hospital to respond to the pandemic as effectively as possible.
“As such we have implemented a Red and Green operational system throughout the hospital which identifies Red areas/wards with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients and Green areas/wards for patients with non COVID-19 symptoms.
“When a patient presents to our A&E department who is acutely unwell with COVID-19 symptoms they are treated in a separate area in A&E, if they need to be admitted they’re transferred to a Red ward.”