No matter what, it’s so important that health warning signs aren’t ignored and you seek medical advice when needed.

The current coronavirus pandemic has understandably resulted in people not wanting to put pressure on the NHS for fear of being a burden or worry about catching the virus.

However, in recent weeks health chiefs have expressed concern about the number of people who appear to be putting off getting help for urgent health issues, and stressed it’s as important as ever to act.

Dr Carey Lunan, a GP and chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “It is just as important as ever for people to seek help if they have an urgent health concern, or are worried about a potential cancer symptom. You are not being a burden, it’s what the NHS is here for and we want to hear from you.

“Your health and safety are our top priorities, and both GP practices and hospitals are working differently during the pandemic to minimise infection risk. It’s important to reassure you that patients with coronavirus are treated in separate parts of hospitals.

“Likewise, immunisations against other infectious diseases remain a vital part of protecting the people of Scotland, so please do attend your appointments for these. They can easily be rescheduled if you or your family members are showing signs of coronavirus at the time of your appointment.”

Figures suggested patients were delaying going to their GP or the hospital during the pandemic. There has also been a drop in urgent cancer referrals, and a reduction in families bringing their children for immunisation appointments.

During these times it’s important to remember the NHS is open and ready to help all patients – not just those with Covid-19 – with patient safety prioritised.

If you or a loved one has a health concern, remember your community pharmacy and GP practice are open. The first GP appointment may be by telephone or video, but it is still a hugely important step in finding out if you need urgent medical help.

It’s really important not to ignore potential cancer signs and symptoms, as the earlier cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.

Don’t delay making an appointment with your GP practice if you’ve noticed anything unusual such as difficulty swallowing, your voice becoming hoarse and staying that way for three weeks or more blood in your stool or urine, a lump in your breast or testicle, or if you’ve lost weight without trying. It’s probably nothing serious, but it’s best to get it checked.

If you or someone you live with notices a rapid deterioration in their health, such as the early warning signs of a heart attack, stroke, severe asthma or diabetic collapse, seek help immediately by calling 999.

Immunisation appointments continue for pregnant women and children at this time, and are an important and legitimate reason to leave your home as they help protect against serious, preventable diseases.

Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, added: “We are so thankful to those who are following guidance to save lives and our NHS, but it’s vital people know the NHS is still there if you, or someone you love, needs urgent medical assistance.

“I’d also like to thank all our health and social care staff for their continuing extraordinary efforts as we face this pandemic. Thanks to them, the NHS remains open to provide urgent medical care to those in need.”

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