The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh has responded to today’s ONS report: Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain. The report highlights that:

  • Almost 7 in 10 adults (69%) said they would feel comfortable or very comfortable to attend an appointment in person with a healthcare professional, however, fewer people reported that they would feel comfortable or very comfortable if they were attending a hospital appointment or Accident and Emergency (A&E).
  • Just over 6 in 10 adults (61%) reported that they would feel comfortable or very comfortable attending a hospital appointment if their doctor asked them to, and over half (55%) reported they would feel this way attending A&E with an urgent health concern.

Commenting, Professor Angela Thomas, interim president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

As UK health services continue to return after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that patients can feel secure that their risk of infection is as low as possible when coming into contact with care facilities, health care workers, or other patients. We know that hospitals are working hard to achieve this.

The latest ONS statistics show that there is a way to go, before the general public can largely feel confident about attending A&E with an urgent health concern. We note that people at higher risk who were shielding are the most concerned about attending an appointment in person, yet they most important to see – for example renal, transplant or cancer patients.

In addition, those working in the health service must not be put at any additional risk through unprotected contact with patients or their families. A mainstay in achieving these aims is following hospital regulations, social distancing where possible, wearing face coverings, hand and respiratory hygiene, and the extension of availability of testing for patients and staff alike, which we are assured is on the increase in terms of capacity.

We have already seen record lows in A&E attendances this year. We are therefore calling on government in all parts of the UK to take steps to improve public confidence in attending healthcare appointments, particularly for those who have been shielding. This should include partnership working with the medical professions, patient groups, NHS Trusts and Boards, and hospitals across the UK.