WE'RE still here to help!

That's the message of a major new campaign involving doctors and care professionals, who are concerned that some people ill with symptoms unrelated to coronavirus aren't seeking help – for fear of overburdening the system.

Organisations including the NHS, Bradford Council and voluntary and community bodies have joined forces for the #StillHereToHelp initiative.

They are reassuring the public across Bradford district and Craven that whilst there have been some changes to routines due to the Covid-19 pandemic, urgent support is available as usual – and should be sought if needed.

As part of the campaign, short social media videos have been produced to promote the message.

Among those backing the venture is Airedale Hospital, which has seen a slump in the overall number of people using its emergency department since the coronavirus outbreak began.

It says people should attend if they are experiencing chest or abdominal pain or stroke symptoms, have suffered a suspected fracture or have any other emergency condition.

Hospital bosses warn that those failing to seek help could see a worsening of their illness or injury and may need more advanced treatment as a result.

GP practices have altered the way they work to limit the spread of Covid-19, but doctors and other healthcare professionals continue to be available to see or speak to anyone who is unwell – whatever the cause.

Surgeries have shared arrangements to see people with coronavirus symptoms, or from a household that is self-isolating because a family member may be affected, at special hub locations.

But all other GP premises have day-to-day plans in place to help patients with unrelated illnesses or health conditions.

When contacting their practice, people are initially assessed on the phone before a call or video link is booked with a doctor.

Patients can still be seen face-to-face where appropriate, and home visits continue to be available to a small number of people – such as the frail, vulnerable or those without access to transport.

Dr James Thomas, clinical chairman of NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, said the campaign aimed to get across an important message.

He added: "As a health and care system, we are concerned that people who are very unwell with symptoms unrelated to coronavirus are not seeking help from their GP or local hospital as they would normally. It’s vital that they know we’re still here to help.

"As a family doctor, I would like to reassure people that they can still contact their GP about a health concern and get the care they need.

"Appointments are available for urgent health conditions – even if people don’t have any coronavirus symptoms and are not self-isolating. Practices want to ensure that people get the right treatment first time, so it’s important for them to call their practice from home first, rather than turn-up at the surgery in person.

"And our hospital emergency departments are still here to help – they have procedures in place to see and treat people who do not have coronavirus-like illnesses."