Joint statement on care for people with serious illness during COVID-19

Our President contributes to a joint statement by medical leaders, encouraging people to use the NHS in the usual way in the case of serious illness.

Today, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges published a statement encouraging members of the public not to delay if they need help for serious medical conditions.

According to the statement:

The NHS not only remains open to see people with urgent and serious problems, it is actively asking that such people seek help. Urgent and acute illnesses or conditions will continue to be treated and the public must not hold back from seeking NHS help regarding serious illness in themselves or their family. This applies to new symptoms or recurrences of existing conditions.

The NHS has, understandably, undergone changes to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic which means that routine or non-urgent appointments are likely to be postponed – but this does not apply to urgent or emergency illnesses, the management of poorly controlled or unstable long-term conditions or the provision of palliative and end of life care. We know from previous epidemics that there is a danger of increased harm and deaths from issues that are not related to COVID-19 because patients have not sought treatment for other urgent or serious health problems.

The advice from medical leaders in the UK is as follows:

  • You should continue to seek NHS help through your GP, NHS111, 999 or A&E if you or your family become acutely unwell and believe that you may be suffering from a serious or life-threatening condition
  • You should continue with ongoing treatments for all your medical conditions and attend any hospital or GP appointments that are requested. Routine care is being carried out, where possible, through ‘phone calls or video links so you will not be asked to attend unless absolutely necessary
  • Hospitals are safer than your own home if you are in need of emergency care. The reorganisation of services includes protecting patients who are being seen for conditions other than COVID-19.

Professor Russell Viner, President of RCPCH said:

If you’re a parent with a seriously unwell child, we want you to know that the NHS is here for you. Don’t worry about ‘bothering us’, we want to see you and your child. If you have to go to A&E there will be special arrangements in place to protect you and your child from the risk of infection. COVID-19 is putting the NHS under a lot of pressure but children still get sick and we want you to connect with us when this happens.