The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), which represents physicians across the UK, has urged the government to take action to improve public confidence in attending healthcare appointments, particularly for those who were shielding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The College was responding to the publication of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report: Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain, which highlights that:
- Over two-thirds of adults (69%) said they would feel comfortable or very comfortable attending an appointment in person with a healthcare professional; however, fewer reported 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 they would feel comfortable or very comfortable attending a hospital appointment if their doctor asked them to, and 55% said they would feel this way attending A&E with an urgent health concern.
Prof Angela Thomas, RCPE President, said: “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 [are the] most important to see – for example renal, transplant or cancer patients.”
However, those working in the health service must not be put at any additional risk through unprotected contact with patients or their families, she said.
“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.”