Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and GPs across the city say we are ‘still open for business for urgent care’ as the number of patients seeking care for heart attacks and strokes halves.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and the City’s GPs are reminding everyone that they are still ‘open for urgent care’ and urged people not to put off seeking help in an emergency or leave symptoms unchecked.

Doctors are concerned that because of the current COVID-19 outbreak people are waiting too long before seeking help when they have symptoms associated with life threatening conditions like heart attack, sepsis and stroke.

They worry this is because people are worried about contracting the virus or that they do not want to bother the busy hospital teams.

Dr Jennifer Hill, Medical Director (Operations) at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We have seen some worrying reductions in the number of people presenting with chest pains and symptoms associated with a stroke as well as also other urgent conditions. For example we have seen a drop of approximately 50% in Transient Ischaemic Attacks (mini strokes) clinic referrals and around 40% in stroke admissions. Similarly we are not seeing as many patients presenting with chest pains as we would normally do. This is a trend which is being mirrored nationally and we are urging anyone who has symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness, weakness in the arm, face droop or slurred speech to act early and not be put off because of COVID-19.

We would rather people who have serious symptoms take action straight away to allow us to provide the right treatment in a timely way and prevent full blown life threatening scenarios like a severe stroke, sepsis or heart attack. People do not need to be worried about adding to our workload or being at increased risk of contracting Coronavirus. We are open for urgent care and have taken all the appropriate precautions to do that as safely as possible.”

Dr Amanda Jones, Stroke Nurse Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, added:

“We have seen people who have left their symptoms to go on for far too long, or tried to ignore them because they did not want to bother the NHS, and were also scared about coming into the hospital environment. When it comes to strokes, time is of the essence and people must seek care as soon as symptoms start. People can either experience a TIA (mini stroke) or a more major stroke. The key indication that a stroke or TIA is happening, is that symptoms are usually sudden, and out of the blue. If you are worried you may have had a TIA (mini stroke), where you have experienced sudden short lasting symptoms like a weakness in the arm, face droop or slurred speech, that then went away – please do not ignore the signs, or you run the risk of a more serious stroke. Sheffield’s GPs are also available to provide advice and they can refer you to our specialist TIA clinic, for you to be reviewed and treated within 24 hours (you do not need to be admitted to hospital). If you think you or a loved one are experiencing a more major stroke, where stroke symptoms do not go away, dial 999 immediately, as time is brain, and the sooner you get into hospital for specialist assessment and treatment, the less likelihood of long term disability. Do not let Coronavirus stop you from getting the specialist care and treatment you need. ”

Professor Julian Gunn, Consultant Cardiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We have also noticed that, since the lockdown, there has been a halving of the number patients coming to hospital with heart attacks. This may be because people don’t want to trouble the emergency services, or are scared of attending hospital in case they catch COVID-19. Or maybe they think that their symptoms are due to a chest infection or some other cause. The symptom of a heart attack is chest pain out of the blue, like a heavy weight on the chest, or a band around it. If that happens, you must waste no time and ring 999. The quicker we can treat you by inserting a stent for example the better, because it avoids serious damage being done to the heart, and we can get you back home within 2-3 days.”

Dr Terry Hudsen, GP and Chair at NHS Sheffield CCG, explains: “GP practices are working extremely hard to ensure people in Sheffield get the right care they need. Patients can still access GP services that they need but the services are being delivered in a slightly different way – by telephone or video conference where possible. Face to face appointments will be offered if necessary but we are trying to keep people from physically coming into the practice as much as possible. This is to keep patients and staff as safe as possible. If you or a loved one needs medical help for any reason and think you need to see a GP or nurse, telephone your practice on the usual number. They will triage you by telephone and offer an appointment if deemed necessary. Please do not turn up at a GP surgery without an appointment. For all emergency health care needs, call 999”.