Press release (29.4.20): Healthwatch supports the ‘NHS Open for Business’ campaign

29 April 2020

Covid-19 lockdown: NHS ‘Open for business’ campaign


Healthwatch is pleased to see there is some new guidance for patients to encourage those with potentially serious health conditions to seek medical help. Please see this link to the NHS Open for business campaign and this link to a Youtube video produced by GPs 

The focus of the NHS over the last six weeks has rightly been on preventing the spread of Covid-19 and treating those affected by the virus, but it is now clear that thousands of people who might normally have gone to their GP, dentist or their A&E department have not attended.  There is now a concern that for some of those people who are not seeking early help for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and mental health issues, they will experience poorer health and that their conditions may be more difficult to treat.

Research by the NHS has shown that people are concerned with catching the virus and bringing it home to loved ones and/or of being a burden on the hospital.

Healthwatch encourages people to access NHS services for non-coronavirus medical issues when they have an urgent medical need or have been instructed to.

 Fran McCabe Chair of Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said today:

“Do not ignore signs and symptoms of potentially serious health problems, the NHS wants you to make contact them and get help. Despite the COVID virus the NHS is ‘Open for Business’ and has the capacity to treat you”


Cancer is of particular concern to Healthwatch and we urge people to heed the guidance produced by Healthwatch England in association with Cancer Research UK. The comprehensive guide on cancer and coronavirus provides advice for people living with cancer and anyone who is worried that they may be displaying symptoms of cancer.

For people living with cancer

  • Patients undergoing treatment are advised to follow the advice of their care teams. Your healthcare team will always contact you if there are any changes to your care or treatment.
  • You should contact your GP or cancer specialist if you are due to go to a hospital appointment.
  • There is currently no shortage of medicines due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • You should contact your cancer advice line, chemotherapy helpline or Acute Oncology Service if you have symptoms of coronavirus and you are having cancer treatment or have cancer that affects your immune system.

 If you are worried that you may have symptoms

  • Should you have any health concerns related to cancer, but have not been tested or diagnosed, then you are strongly urged to contact your GP as normal. GP’s are continuing to refer patients for diagnostic testing where necessary. This guide provides more information about Urgent Cancer Referrals.
  • You can also read the advice from Cancer Research UK on having cancer symptoms during the pandemic.
  • If you need support at this time you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040 (Freephone) from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Whilst GP surgeries are open you may not be able to attend your usual surgery as some are being reserved for people suspected of having the Covid19 virus. Healthwatch has produced guidance about seeing a GP which you can access here
  • Similarly, if a GP refers you for an urgent appointment for suspected cancer, you are urged to follow this referral up. Most people who are referred do not have cancer but follow ups can relieve any worry as well as identify early those who do.
  • What is clear is that any appointments which are made for you are likely to feel different to usual. In order to protect you and staff from Covid-19, initial appointments are likely to be over the phone. If you are at high risk then the risks of attending an appointment at the hospital versus your symptoms will be assessed and you will be offered treatment accordingly, or at a later stage.

The main message to everyone is not to ignore signs and symptoms of any potentially serious health problem. Your GP will be able to discuss with you the various options and help you come to a joint decision about what is right for you.

Remember: the NHS wants you to make contact and get help when you need it despite the Covid virus, and it has the capacity to treat you. The clear message from the NHS is “WE’LL GIVE YOU THE CARE YOU NEED”

David Liley, Chief Officer Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said today:

“People have been protecting the NHS by making as few demands on services as they can but ignoring health issues will create a further pressure on the NHS and care services. COVID 19 is the most immediate but not the only health threat in our community. Follow NHS advice and remember they are ‘Open for Business’, particularly for high risk health groups, cancer, heart attack, stroke, pregnant women, parents of young children, people living with mental health, learning disability and autism.”

Press release ends


Interviews are available from:

David Liley, Chief Officer, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove

07931 755343

Healthwatch Team

01273 234 041

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