People should seek medical care when they need it and not be put off by the coronavirus epidemic, say doctors, charities and the health service.
Anyone who delays seeking treatment is putting their long-term health at risk, as well as their life, they warn.
Half the usual number of people are going to A&E and treatment for heart attacks and strokes is down.
Seeking medical help is one of the four reasons people can safely leave home, government guidance says.
“Ignoring problems can have serious consequences – now or in the future,” the head of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, says.
“So whether you or your loved one has the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, are a parent worried about their child or have concerns about conditions such as cancer, you should seek help in the way you always would.”
A public information campaign persuading people to use the health service will feature NHS staff and start next week.
It comes as the UK’s chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty warns of the impact of deaths from causes other than Covid-19 during the lockdown.
Despite NHS efforts to free up thousands of beds across the country and build new Nightingale hospitals over the last few weeks, there is concern that people are not using the NHS either because they don’t want to be a burden or because they are worried about about catching the virus.
How to get help
- Go to your GP practice, use NHS 111 online or call 111 if you need medical help
- Call 999 in emergencies
- Go to hospital if you are told you should
Figures suggest half the number of people are going to Accident and Emergency departments in hospitals in England this month, compared with April 2019.
And experts say they are concerned people are not getting potentially life-saving treatment for heart attacks and strokes, with a 50% fall in the number of people seeking medical help for heart symptoms.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said it was “vitally important” that the many thousands of people in the UK with existing heart conditions accessed care “immediately” if their condition worsened.
‘Children do get sick’
There are also concerns that children may be missing out on medical care during the pandemic.
“Children are unlikely to be unwell with Covid, but they do get sick and when this happens we want to see them,” said Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
There is also a warning that people should not dismiss strokes as “just a funny turn”.
Juliet Bouverie, from the Stroke Association, said a stroke was a medical emergency.
“The quicker you’re diagnosed and treated for a stroke, the better your chances of making a good recovery,” she said.
If you suspect that you, or someone else could be having a stroke, call 999.