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27 Aug 2020

Clinical Negligence

Don’t let Covid fears stop you seeking medical care

As the true impact of lockdown on the nation’s health begins to emerge, Danielle Howell, a senior associate solicitor in our clinical negligence team, examines the importance of seeking medical advice despite fears over Covid-19.

“The last few months have been like nothing we’ve ever known before. The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of society, not least our healthcare system, with the NHS having been put under tremendous strain, particularly through April and May as the number of cases spiralled out of control.

“Thankfully, those incredibly high numbers of Covid cases are behind us – for now, at least – and in most areas of life we are returning to some sort of normality. However, stories are now emerging about the true impact that the lockdown had on the nation’s health, not only the effects of the virus itself but also the consequences of so many thousands of people having missed medical care while the restrictions were in place.

“Government figures published earlier this month suggested that for every three people who had died from coronavirus by the beginning of May, two had died as a result of missing medical care because of the lockdown. While Covid-19 killed 25,000 in that period, 16,000 died through missed medical care, including 6,000 who did not attend A&E or see their GP at the height of lockdown for fear that they might catch the virus.

“Worryingly, the report predicts that 81,500 people in total could lose their lives in the next 50 years through waiting longer for non-urgent elective care and through the impact of the recession caused by the crisis. In the next five years alone, the experts expect 1,400 people to die because they were diagnosed with cancer too late. And although the medium to long-term deaths from delayed healthcare have not been quantified, an earlier report by the same team suggested they could be a staggering 185,000.

“These figures are extremely frightening. We’ve all heard stories about people who put off going to see their doctor or had appointments or operations cancelled during lockdown, and are now dealing with health issues that could have been either avoided or lessened had they sought help earlier or if their original appointment had been able to go ahead.

“We all need to remember that, with any matter affecting your health, the sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the chances of successful treatment. It is all too easy sometimes to bury your head in the sand but shocking stories such as the announcement from former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding this week that she has had breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body certainly make us all sit up and think about our health, and remind us how precious it is.

“If you have any health issues that are worrying you, don’t put off getting them checked out. The best place to get accurate health and information is the NHS website but most GP surgeries are operating online services, phone or video appointments so you can speak to a medical professional without having to visit the surgery. Hospitals are contacting patients directly to advise them about next steps for any appointments or procedures that have had to be cancelled or rescheduled.

“Many people will feel neglected and angry about their medical problems not having been prioritised during lockdown and will be worrying about the consequences of their treatment having been delayed. Just remember that there are people who can help. The important thing is not to suffer in silence and risk further problems down the line.”

If you have been affected by a delay in treatment or diagnosis or a cancelled procedure and would like a confidential discussion about your options, contact our specialist team of clinical negligence lawyers by calling us on 01633 244233 or by emailing fru@hevans.com.



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