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Late emergency presentations ‘even more likely’ with reduced access to healthcare professionals

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, comments on the release today of the Royal College of Physicians’ fifth survey of fellows and members which shows that doctors are concerned for patients as practice and rotas return to normal.

He said: “We have seen far too many times in the recent past patients with severe conditions attending hospitals or referred to same day emergency care units as they have possibly underplayed their own problems and there has been no healthcare professional checking them.

“This is even more likely to happen in the ‘new normal’ of patients not actually seeing their GPs and relying on telephone consultations.

“Hospitals are running at reduced capacity to maintain the ‘Covid-secure’ environment and with much reduced diagnostics so it is, in my opinion, a folorn hope to get everything back to 90% of capacity swiftly as NHS trusts have been tasked with.

“The numbers of patients seeking urgent care has been well below what we would expect for this time of the year and more than 50% of patients are waiting more than six weeks for a diagnostic test which is gravely concerning.

“The ‘Covid-safe’ capacity is just not there and it seems to be forgotten that acute patients are returning in numbers and also needing access to diagnostics.

“I think one of the crucial things is whether or not community-based services designed to keep people safe from their chronic disease have been working.

“For example, heart failure community teams not working/redeployed into busy hospitals mean patients gradually deteriorating at home and now in far worse conditions.”

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