A major new campaign has been launched to persuade the public to seek urgent care and treatment from the NHS when they need it.

Over recent weeks there has been significantly lower numbers of people contacting their GP practices or attending emergency departments and urgent treatment centres. Delays in getting medical help, advice and treatment pose a long-term risk to people’s health and wellbeing and ultimately their lives. A recent national poll suggested that one in 10 people would not contact their GP if they were concerned that they had possible cancer symptoms. So the focus on getting services operational is crucial in order to reassure the public that they can safely seek care and are not a burden.

Dr Charlotte Canniff, local GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We understand people are worried about placing a burden on the NHS and we know that people are concerned about coronavirus. However, the NHS is still here for you, there is capacity within our services and we have worked hard to ensure it is safe for you to access essential services.”

Seeking medical help is one of the four reasons that people can safely leave home, in line with government guidance. If you or a member of your family experience symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke, are a worried parent or have concerns about conditions such as cancer you should seek help. If you have a symptom that you are worried about, you must contact your GP practice.

Dr Canniff added: “People really should contact their GP or use the 111 online service if they have urgent care needs, or 999 in emergencies; attending hospital if they are told they should. If you cannot get help using the online NHS 111 service then please do call 111.

“The current situation does mean services are being delivered differently, in some cases virtually, but we continue to deliver health advice and treatment safely to meet the needs of everyone. For example, if you need medical help from your GP, contact them either online or by phone to be assessed.

“I would also encourage people to continue to use other vital health services such as maternity appointments, mental health support and cancer treatment. Your clinician will discuss if there are any issues posed by coronavirus. If we ignore problems or treatment it can have serious consequences.

“This also applies to routine vaccinations for babies and children. We know they protect against serious and potentially deadly illnesses and it is imperative that even during the coronavirus outbreak we do not stop protecting ourselves and our communities against other viruses.”

If you need medical help and it’s not a life threatening emergency, remember to call your GP practice, call NHS 111 or visit www.111.nhs.uk first.