PATIENTS are being urged to attend appointments as the number of missed hospital visits has dropped during lockdown by as much as 50 per cent in some areas.

The reason for this fall is thought to be a result of people being worried about possible exposure to coronavirus while seeing a doctor face-to-face.

Health officials want to reassure people that it is safe, and in patients’ best interests, to attend appointments as more hospital-based services like outpatient clinics and diagnostic investigations begin to resume after being temporarily suspended,

Patients attending appointments in person should prepare for their hospital visit by bringing with them their own face covering, using the provided hand sanitiser gel at the entrance and not arriving more than five minutes early.

Clinical chair of the region's clinical commissioning group Dr Andrew Girdher said: “As a practicing GP, I know that when a doctor refers a patient to hospital, it’s because there is a genuine need for them to be seen and assessed by an expert.

“Not attending these appointments, especially when it’s relating to something serious, such as a suspected cancer, is extremely risky as delaying treatment, even by just a few months, can have serious implications on future care.

“Coronavirus is now part of our everyday lives, and while our hospitals are carrying out more consultations remotely, there is still a need for some to take place in person.

“It’s vitally important for people to honour these appointments, not least because the health conditions that were around before Covid-19 are still with us, and still need to be treated with the same significance.”

The CCG’s three main hospitals have introduced extra safety measures.

These include isolating areas of the buildings that have been set up to care for patients with coronavirus, carrying out regular deep cleans of waiting rooms and corridors, maintaining widespread strict social distancing, and providing separate entrances and exits for patients and staff.

Wherever possible, patients are asked to attend appointments alone, but some patients, including those under 16 or with a learning disability, may require a parent, carer or other nominated person to be present.

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