Health bosses have urged people to ensure they continue to seek the right healthcare advice during the Coronavirus pandemic and keep healthcare appointments unless they have been contacted to postpone.
Professor John Howarth, Strategic Incident Commander for COVID-19 at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “I am really worried that people are not seeking the help they need for important conditions other than Covid-19.
“For example the numbers being referred with suspected cancer, heart problems and suspected stroke are significantly less.
“As a local GP I know the importance of spotting cancer and other conditions early so if you have any symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, coughing blood, blood in the urine or motions, or bleeding after the menopause we still want to see and examine you.
“Both local general practices and our hospitals have dedicated Covid-19 free zones to safely see and treat patients.
Consultant David Paul Davies, who works at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The number of new stroke admissions over the last two week is considerably fewer than normal. In addition, the number of referrals to our urgent access Transient Ischaemic Attack clinic (TIA) - also called a mini-stroke clinic - are fewer than normal. This is not just a local issue and colleagues across the country are also reporting similar trends.
“Our big worry is that that there are people with stroke symptoms who are too frightened to come to hospital because of Covid-19. We are afraid that people with mild or transient symptoms are not getting properly investigated and treatments that can substantially reduce the risk of another, possibly bigger, stroke occurring are not being started.
“Our TIA clinic is still running and the majority of patients are being contacted by telephone rather than coming to the clinic. Some people will be asked to come to clinic so they can have all the appropriate scans done. People with transient symptoms of stroke should contact their GP for an urgent referral.
“People with new stroke symptoms,(remember the FAST test) are strongly advised to come straight to hospital for urgent investigations and treatment - Dial 999. The best treatments for stroke can only be given in the first few hours after a stroke has started.”
People suffering chest pains should also get help as early intervention is key to a good recovery.
Louise Buchanan, Consultant Cardiologist at NCIC, said: “We have noticed that the number of patients coming to our hospitals with medical emergencies, such as heart attack or stroke, has fallen significantly over the last few weeks.
“It is really important to attend hospital with new symptoms of these conditions to enable our specialist teams to provide urgent potentially life-saving treatment.”
Professor John Howarth added: “There has been a fantastic community response to this pandemic in North Cumbria. We need to mobilise now as individuals and families to make sure we don’t miss other important conditions.”
Those who experience symptoms which may suggest cancer - such as new lumps, unexplained weight loss or bleeding - can speak to their doctor or get NHS advice online at https://www.nhs.uk/ and https://111.nhs.uk/
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/ has useful leaflets around spotting cancer early.
In an emergency please still call 999.