In response to the publication today of NHS England’s monthly performance statistics, Dr Rebecca Fisher, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s figures are a wake-up call. More needs to be done to ensure people with cancer and other serious health conditions get the treatment they need, to avoid storing up worse health problems for the future.
'Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer saves lives, but 60% fewer people with suspected cancer were urgently referred to a specialist in April compared to the same month in 2019 and the number of first treatments for cancer fell by 21%. Along with dramatic falls in people visiting A&E and getting routine hospital treatment during lockdown, there is growing evidence that more people are going without the care they need for serious health conditions.
'While the reduced availability of some NHS services at the height of the pandemic is clearly an important factor, understanding why people aren't coming forward is essential. Our new research published today with Ipsos MORI* shows 47% of people would feel uncomfortable using their local hospital in the short term if the need arose, three quarters of whom (76%) would be concerned about being exposed to COVID-19.
'The government and the NHS must work together to ensure people can use health services without putting themselves at increased risk of catching the virus – this is a prerequisite for reassuring the public. Adequate supplies of PPE, reliable testing, and a track and trace system that is fit for purpose are all urgently needed and essential to reassuring the public that the NHS is safe.'
* The Health Foundation commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a representative poll of the general public in Great Britain to understand opinion on a range of issues including experience of using NHS services during the pandemic.
- Half of the public (52%) would feel comfortable using their local hospital over the next few weeks if the need arose, although a sizeable minority would be uncomfortable (47%). People would feel much more comfortable visiting their GP (78%) – only one in five (20%) indicate they would feel uncomfortable.
- The overwhelming concern when considering a visit to both healthcare settings is fear of being exposed to coronavirus (76% for hospital, 63% for a GP practice). Around one in ten would feel uncomfortable because of the additional pressure placed on the health service (12% for hospitals and 8% for a GP practice). In addition, one in ten were not sure they would get an appointment at their GP practice (9%).
- A quarter of the British population (24%) have used a NHS service since the government introduced a lockdown in response to the coronavirus epidemic. Overall, people felt more comfortable than uncomfortable when accessing services, although this varied depending on the perceived risk of the service.
The survey was conducted by telephone on the Ipsos MORI CATI Omnibus survey, a weekly telephone omnibus survey of a representative sample of people aged 18 and over in Great Britain. Fieldwork took place between 1 and 10 May 2020. A total of 1,983 people were interviewed. Quotas were set on age, gender, government office region and working status. Data have been weighted to the known offline population proportions for age within gender, government office region and working status and social grade.
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