RCGP urges patients not to be deterred from seeking medical assistance for non-Covid conditions as a potential second wave approaches

Publication date: 23 September 2020

Responding to a study in The Lancet on the diagnosis of physical and mental health conditions in primary care during the Covid-19 pandemic, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Data from the College’s Research and Surveillance Centre shows a decrease in demand for routine GP consultations at the height of lockdown, which coincides with the period this study looks at, so the findings aren’t altogether surprising.

“The fall in consultations is likely due to a number of factors, including patients having concerns about accessing GP services due to fear of contracting the virus or overburdening NHS services – and a desire to follow official messaging to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Many specialist services were also restricted, so GPs might not have always been able to make referrals except in urgent cases.

“General practice has been open throughout the pandemic – and as a College we’ve worked to get the message out that stay at home guidance does not include when seeking medical care. Demand for routine GP consultations has increased since the end of May and are now at near-normal levels for this time of year.

“During a pandemic, other health conditions do not cease to exist, and we’ve seen from health crises in the past that there are sometimes more deaths from conditions unrelated to the pandemic than the virus causing the pandemic itself. As GPs and our teams approach a likely second wave of COVID-19, we do not want to see this happen and we urge patients who have concerns about their health to seek medical assistance, particularly if they have signs that could indicate serious conditions, such as cancer.

“Access to general practice is currently different than usual, with most consultations being conducted remotely, for the very reason we want to limit footfall in our surgeries, and therefore help stop the spread of the virus. We hope this is reassuring for patients. For those who do need to come to the practice for a face to face appointment, safety measures will have been implemented to try to keep patients as safe as possible.”

Further Information

Once the embargo lifts, a copy of The Lancet paper will be available on their website: Diagnosis of physical and mental health conditions in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic: a retrospective cohort study

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575

Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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