New campaign urges people to contact a doctor after cancer referrals fall 70 per cent during Covid-19 crisis

Urgent suspected cancer referrals have dropped by 72 per cent since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak as fewer people are presenting their symptoms to their GP practice.

A new campaign is now being launched to remind people to seek medical help for urgent health issues not related to coronavirus.

Figures have indicated patients are delaying seeing their GP during the pandemic and there has been a reduction in families bringing children for immunisation.

Amid the coronavirus crisis many seem fearful of placing additional strain on the NHS, or becoming infected as a result of a medical visit.

Attendance at accident and emergency units is down by more than 50 per cent from what hospitals would normally expect.

Just over 11,000 came in to A and E units in the first week of April, when the typical figure would be around 25,000.

Paediatrics attendance is also down 50 per cent.

The Scottish Government said there is a misconception that doctors do not want to see patients.

The NHS is Open campaign, launching today (24th April) will urge people to contact their GP or local hospital if they have urgent health worries.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This pandemic does not mean we’ve stopped the fight against cancer, heart attacks or other serious health conditions. It is vital people continue to raise any health worries with their doctor at the earliest possible time and continue to attend regular check-ups and appointments when they are invited to do so.”

Dr Carey Lunan, a working GP and Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland, will feature in TV adverts as part of the campaign.

She said: “The NHS is open and it is safe. Appointments may feel a little different – they might happen on the phone or even by videolink. If people need to be seen face-to-face, we can arrange that too.

The latest figures (on 23rd April) showed that in Scotland 1,120 patients who tested positive for Coronavirus had died.

Almost 45,000 had been tested for the virus, with 9,409 of them positive.

In Highland, according to weekly figures published by National Records for Scotland on Wednesday, there had been 50 deaths attributed to the virus.

There are currently 214 recorded cases in the region, with 56 patients in hospital – fewer than five of whom are in intensive care.

Six Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the Western Isles, none of which have been fatal.

NHS Western Isles moved to correct reports that one death related to Covid-19 had been recorded by the NRS.

NHS WI confirmed that the case related to an individual who was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 symptoms. The individual was tested while in hospital, but tragically passed away before the test result was received back.

Prior to receiving the results of the test, Covid-19 was recorded on the death certificate but the test result since came back negative.