The Patient’s Association is calling for clarity on how the NHS will care for non-COVID patients if there is a second lockdown.
The Patients Association’s survey of nearly 1,000 patients’ experiences during the spring lockdown found that more than half (59%) had struggled to access at least one healthcare service. And nearly one in four of respondents had had difficulty accessing GP, dentistry and diagnostic services.
Many respondents reported that they were worried about the future; with 59% (from a total of 723) admitting that they were worried their current condition(s) might get worse as a result of lockdown. While 70% (of 723) said they were worried the services they needed would become harder to access after the pandemic.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement of new restrictions to control coronavirus, Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association said:
‘Patients have told us the first lockdown left them without the treatment they need, unable to access regular care, feeling left behind, and facing mounting anxiety and loneliness.
‘Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister may well be the first of several sets of tighter restrictions in response to the second wave of COVID-19.
‘The nation needs clarity on how the NHS will care for non-COVID patients this time around. We cannot, once again, leave patients waiting for treatment and feeling abandoned.
‘NHS waiting lists still need to be brought down, and the backlog from the first shutdown tackled, not extended. It’s not OK to leave people’s illnesses getting worse.
‘The NHS will be up against it this winter, so we need to hear now how it will ensure it meets the needs of all patients. Unlike in its first set of emergency measures, it must listen to patients this time, and understand the consequences of any new measures for the patients affected.
‘Patients who were already disadvantaged by health inequalities have been hardest hit by both COVID-19 and the knock-on effects of the emergency measures.
‘This understanding should be the starting-point for the NHS’s approach in the second wave, to avoid a repeat of the experiences our survey uncovered.
‘Last time round, the NHS mustered a huge army of additional staff, not least from retired personnel coming back.
‘The extra staff and the Nightingale hospitals ended up not being heavily used for COVID-19 cases. This time, those kinds of efforts should be deployed to help people with non-COVID needs, to reduce the impact of a tough winter on patients across the board.
‘We need much more focus this time around on the consequences of service changes for non-COVID patients – the NHS can’t leave people feeling abandoned again.’
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