When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, thousands of people stayed away from GP surgeries and hospitals.
Research shows 34 per cent of adults in the UK said they deliberately avoided making a doctors’ appointment because of the risk of infection.
And 45 per cent of people didn’t seek medical attention because they didn’t want to burden the NHS.
The figures tell a tale of avoiding the NHS as much as possible as infection rates spiralled out of control during the Spring of 2020.
The findings from HealthHero, show that in the last year more than a third of adults have deliberately avoided making a GP appointment due to COVID-19, with more than half saying that this has had a negative impact on their physical health – a figure that went up to 74 per cent for those shielding due to pre-existing medical conditions.
The Government’s messaging appears to have had a significant impact, with close to half of those avoiding the GP surgery citing ‘not wanting to burden the NHS’ as their main reason for not booking appointments.
Almost four in ten determined that their condition was not serious enough to warrant seeing their GP, or cited fears about catching the virus at the surgery as reasons for not booking an appointment.
People opted to suffer in silence, with two thirds of those who have avoided appointments with their GP reporting experiencing pain and discomfort from their physical symptoms. Half of UK adults who avoided GPs also reported a decline in mental health.
Of those who avoided booking appointments almost a third simply Googled symptoms, 16 per cent relied on advice and assistance from friends and family, 13 per cent sought out private medical care – whether in person or remote used workplace health plans.
A third of people say they will continue to use remote healthcare from now on.
Dr Chris Morris, medical director at HealthHero and practising GP said: “The scale of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is only beginning to be determined, but what has become apparent over the past few months are the pandemic’s ‘secondary’ casualties, those people with non-COVID-19 health issues that were dissuaded from seeking medical help with their NHS GP”.
“COVID-19’s rapid escalation caused people to modify and change their behaviour towards the NHS almost overnight.
“But while our research does show some concerning impacts of that speed, it also highlights that there is a real opportunity to transform healthcare provision for the better.
“We found that of those who had a remote GP appointment during the pandemic, more than half were hugely positive about the experience.
“And, the majority found the technology easy or very easy to use, with just five per cent finding it difficult or very difficult.
“At HealthHero we are combining the experience and expertise of medical professionals with the latest digital convenience in order for people to be able to get the medical access they need, when they need it.
“As the NHS now turns its attention to the mammoth job of vaccination rollouts, remote healthcare apps and services can really come into their own, removing some of the burden from the NHS and supporting patients with whatever other health concerns may have taken a backseat due to COVID-19.”
The research conducted in February 2021 with 2,008 UK adults by Opinium on behalf of HealthHero. UK adult population estimates based on ONS data 2019.