RCEM – seriously ill or injured patients may be avoiding Emergency Departments due to Covid-19 fears

9 April 2020

Responding to March’s A&E performance figures for England that show attendances at Emergency Departments at a record low, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said: “We are concerned that this drop in attendance may mean that people with serious health problems are avoiding going to their emergency department for fear of getting coronavirus.

“While this is the lowest number of attendances since 2010, it is the highest ever level of admissions as a proportion of attendances – this of course reflects the high acuity of patients presenting with Covid-19 problems but in fact is something that has been increasing for some time. Even before Covid-19, we knew that patients were getting sicker – people are living longer and acquiring more health problems.

“The response to the coronavirus outbreak by the NHS has been superb; capacity has been ramped up at pace and we’ve seen an increase in staff. Our staff continue to give their all throughout this incredibly difficult time and the warmth and recognition of their efforts by the rest of the country has been heartening.

“The most important thing the public can do at the moment is to stay indoors and follow the government’s advice. By not following it, you are not only putting others at risk, but you are putting the lives of healthcare and other key workers on the line.

“But do seek medical help if you need it – don't stay at home with a heart attack out of fear. Our emergency departments have specific areas for Covid-19 patients, and we treat other ailments in another part. Our healthcare system is still ‘open for business’ and you will be seen. Use NHS 111, your GP or if you are seriously ill, please do go to your A&E.”