NHS hospital teams across Torbay and South Devon are reassuring local people that emergency services are there for them if they are unwell and need help.

Doctors are concerned that some people who should be getting medical help for non-COVID-19 illnesses are staying away from hospital and not seeking help due to fears they might catch the virus.

Attendances have fallen by more than one third at emergency departments across the county, in line with national trends.

Some of this may be because people are acting responsibly and getting advice from other healthcare settings. However, at all hospitals, the numbers of people being admitted with serious problems such as heart problems and strokes are substantially reduced, suggesting that some cases are not being diagnosed.

Ian Currie, acting medical director at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, urged patients to still attend hospital for vital emergency care. He said: “If you become ill please remember we are still here when you need us for urgent care.

“Doctors and care staff are worried some people with serious possible life-threatening conditions and symptoms are not coming to us for urgent care. This has been shown by the large fall in patients asking for our help who have heart conditions or stroke symptoms since the Coronavirus struck.

“We understand why patients might be reluctant to come to a hospital or to call for help from the emergency services in a selfless way, to help us all save lives and reduce pressure on our staff. But patients needing urgent medical attention are assured we have introduced measures to separate patients with Covid-19 from those without to ensure all patients are safe from infection whatever they are being treated for by our staff.”

Paediatricians are also concerned parents may not be getting help for their children when the need it.

The message from paediatric consultants is: “If you’re a parent with a seriously unwell child, we want you to know that the NHS is here for you. Don’t worry about ‘bothering us’, we want to see you and your child. If you have to go to A&E there will be special arrangements in place to protect you and your child from the risk of infection.”