Feeling Unwell? Seek Medical Attention

A West Midlands NHS doctor is urging people to seek medical attention straight away if they are feeling unwell, following growing evidence that people are going to GPs and doctors too late.

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, an intensive care doctor at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, working at Heartlands and Good Hope Hospitals, said it was imperative that people laid aside their fears of “catching COVID-19” at GP surgeries and other healthcare facilities.

“We are now in a position of unintended consequences and after-effects on mental health as a result of lockdown, which means people are not presenting with symptoms early,” he said.

“We’re not seeing a holistic approach to these conditions, perhaps because we’re focusing unilaterally on COVID-19. In making decisions around reopening or restricting society, we need to look at PCR tests, which test for viruses and viral fragments, in the context of case fatality rates, ICU occupancy and how many tests are being done.

“There is a perceived fear around COVID-19 but this has to be balanced by issues caused by other health problems. We’re seeing people come into hospital who are severely ill who would’ve presented earlier were it not for COVID-19 and this is a massive problem because we’re seeing some severe pathology.

“There’s huge anxiety among the population at the moment, even when there are very few patients in hospital with COVID-19. You’re very unlikely to bump into a patient with COVID-19 in a hospital in the West Midlands at the moment.

“Of course, we have to be mindful and follow the guidelines but the NHS has capacity and it is open for business – we are urging anyone who is unwell to seek medical attention.”

Dr Daniels, who is also Founder and Executive Director of The UK Sepsis Trust, said clinicians are seeing late cancer, sepsis, pneumonia and heart attack presentations.

“We are also seeing young, healthy people who have developed sepsis as a consequence of pneumonia,” he said.

Dr Daniels also warned that there is potential for as many as 20% of COVID-19 survivors to be at risk of sepsis within 12 months of being discharged from hospital.

The UK Sepsis Trust has launched its Blurred Lines campaign to raise awareness of the problem, which could save the Government millions of pounds and save lives.

Dr Daniels said a £1 million investment in awareness of the symptoms of sepsis, made right now, could save as much as £200 million in treatment and benefits.

About 245,000 people are affected by sepsis in the UK with at least 48,000 people losing their lives every year.

The UK Sepsis Trust and the York Health Economics Consortium have calculated that for every patient who is diagnosed early there is a cash saving to the NHS of more than £5,500, which means that 20,000 sepsis patients could cost society more than £1 billion in patient care and benefits.

Dr Daniels said, “COVID-19 is a disease caused by the immune system over-reacting to infection, which is exactly what sepsis is. The question to ask is: if I feel ill, could it be sepsis?”

In adults, sepsis may feel like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection at first, with early symptoms including fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing.

Other symptoms of sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy, pale or mottled skin.

For details about The UK Sepsis Trust, visit www.sepsistrust.org.

HOW TO SPOT SEPSIS IN ADULTS

Slurred speech or confusion

Extreme shivering or muscle pain

Passing no urine (in a day)

Severe breathlessness

It feels like you’re going to die

Skin mottled or discoloured

It is vital to seek medical attention immediately if you or another adult has these symptoms.