We use cookies to give you the best experience. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our policy. Read more about how we use cookies and find out how you can change your browser's cookie settings.
Skip to content

Accessing health services

If you have an existing medical condition or you become unwell you might be particularly worried about how to access treatment, medication and appointments. Here's what you need to know. 

沙巴体育appOther illnesses and treatments don't go away just because of coronavirus. For those that have existing conditions and need to access health services, or for those that develop symptoms that aren't coronavirus related, it's important you get the treatment you need. 

沙巴体育appThe NHS has made it clear that health services are still there for those who need them and that you should not ignore symptoms.


Am I at risk?

沙巴体育appPeople living with existing health conditions are more at risk from coronavirus than others.

There are some conditions that put people at particularly high risk. These people should have received a letter from the NHS advising them what to do. They include:

  • people who've received solid organ transplants
  • people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • people with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • people on immunosuppression therapies which significantly increase the risk of infection
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
  • people undergoing radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • people with kidney disease.

How can I stay safe?

If you have one of the conditions listed above, you are advised to shield. You should try to stay inside as much as possible but, under new guidance, can go outside in open spaces with members of your household or, if you live alone, with one person outside of your household.

沙巴体育appIf you are not considered 'extremely clinically vulnerable' you can leave home for the following reasons:

  • For work, where you cannot work from home. If this applies to you then you should travel to work by car, foot, or bike if possible. If you need to use public transport, try to travel at non-peak times when it should be less crowded.
  • To go to shops that are allowed to be open to buy things like food and medicine or to collect items you have ordered over the phone or online.
  • For unlimited leisure and recreation outside, which includes doing exercise, sitting, or playing sports with members of your household. You can meet outdoors with up to 5 people from outside your household including in private gardens. It is essential that you maintain social distancing measures whilst seeing friends and family and stay 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. You should not go in to anyone else’s house unless you are accessing their garden or using the toilet.
  • Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • To attend the funeral of a close family member or member of your household.
  • To access critical public services, such as social services, support services for victims, or services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.

沙巴体育appWhen you do leave your house, you need to stay at least 2 metres away from other people (except members of your own household).


What should I do if I'm unwell?

沙巴体育appYou may feel like you should avoid getting help for medical conditions because you’re worried about putting the NHS under additional pressure or be worried about catching the virus by going to a doctor’s surgery or hospital.

But your health needs are just as important as before and you should seek care and treatment that you need. The NHS has systems in place to ensure that essential care is still available for anyone who needs it and measures are in place to minimise the spread of the virus.

If you become unwell you can still speak to your GP, although they may do this over the phone rather than face-to-face.

沙巴体育appIf you have an existing health condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan. If you have any concerns then contact their GP or specialist.

沙巴体育appIf you need urgent medical help, whether or not you have coronavirus symptoms, you should contact 111 or call 999 in an emergency.


Will my appointment or treatment be postponed?

沙巴体育appSome medical appointments have been postponed or they may be delivered in a different way. This is to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect the NHS.

Outpatient appointments

沙巴体育appThere’s going to be some changes to outpatient appointments. Some people will be asked to have their appointment over the phone or by online video consultation. Other patients will find their appointment has been rearranged.

Patients who need to have their appointments face-to-face will be asked not to bring a friend or relative with them, unless completely necessary.

Cancer treatment and clinically urgent care

Cancer treatment and clinically urgent care will still be treated as a priority, but your treatment plan might be reviewed. They'll consider whether the risks of your treatment have changed as a result of coronavirus. Your clinical team will talk to you and answer questions you may have about any changes to your treatment or appointments.

Anyone who's worried they have signs or symptoms of cancer should contact their GP. Don't put off getting help as the earlier cancer is detected the better. 

沙巴体育appCancer Research and Macmillan have specific guidance on coronavirus for cancer patients. 

Non-emergency operations

All non-emergency operations are being suspended for at least three months. This is to help keep patients safe and to make sure the NHS have the resources they need to tackle coronavirus. This will include hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, as well as minor surgery.  We know lot of people will have already been waiting a long time for their treatment and this news might be upsetting and frustrating.

GP appointments

沙巴体育appYour GP may postpone routine appointments, such as medicine reviews, check-ups and annual health checks, or try to hold appointments over the phone or on video chat. It’s important that you let your GP know if you have developed symptoms since your last check-up so they can decide if you need to be seen. Let your GP know right away if you develop any symptoms for other illnesses, such as cancer. 

If you have symptoms before an appointment

沙巴体育appIf you have symptoms of coronavirus, or a member of your household does, you should let your doctor or clinician know before attending your appointment. In most cases your appointment will be rearranged, however some people who are receiving life-saving treatment will be asked to still attend. If this is the case, your clinician will put in place extra precautions to keep you safe.

If you are shielding and need ongoing treatment or care

If you have health conditions which make you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and have been advised to shield, then you should contact your GP or specialist for advice on how to continue receiving your care and treatment.


How will I get to my appointment?

沙巴体育appPatient transport services are being used to transport people who have been discharged from hospital, which means they are under more pressure than usual.

沙巴体育appTo help ease this pressure, patients whose treatment is still going ahead are being asked to see if a friend, family, or household member can take them to their appointment. But they shouldn’t take you if they have symptoms of coronavirus or if you have symptoms.

Patient transport services are still available for certain patients, but the eligibility guidelines have changed. Priority is being given to:

  • patients who are classed as  and who need to attend ongoing care appointments or treatment but have no access to private travel
  • patients suspected of having coronavirus who need to attend ongoing care appointments and have no access to private travel.
  • patients with life-sustaining care needs who need to attend a care setting, such as for dialysis, and have no access to private travel.

沙巴体育appPatient transport services will be taking additional precautions, including extra cleaning of vehicles and proportionate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure patients and staff can travel safely.

If you're unsure if you should still be attending your treatment, speak to your hospital clinician for advice.


What happens when I come out of hospital?

If you’re currently in hospital or are admitted as a result of coronavirus, there are a few things it's worth knowing about how the discharge process will work during the outbreak:

  1. You and your family should have the current discharge process clearly explained to you as you're admitted to hospital. You should also be given a leaflet explaining this process.
  2. You'll be reviewed regularly during your time in hospital and once it's agreed you no longer need to be in hospital, staff will explain the next steps they will follow so you can will be discharged quickly with the necessary support. You should be given a short leaflet explaining what to expect either if you can go home or should you need to move to another location for further care.
  3. Once moved to the next agreed location – that may be back at home, into a community hospital or into a care home – you may then have a more detailed assessment.
  4. The NHS will pay for any follow-on care that it's agreed that you need when discharged. This should be explained by staff, including how long this is likely to last and what happens next.

沙巴体育appAs part of plans to increase testing for coronavirus, the government announced its intention to test all residents before they move into a care home, starting with those moving to a care home after a hospital stay. If you are to move into a care home, discharge staff will explain how they are managing testing in your hospital


Can I visit someone in hospital?

沙巴体育appCan I visit someone in hospital?

沙巴体育appThe coronavirus pandemic means that there are extra restrictions on visiting someone in hospital.

The guidance previously said that most visitors would not be allowed. From the 5 June this has changed and rules around visiting are now down to individual hospitals. They will make decisions based on the threat of the virus and the best way to keep everyone safe.

You should not be visiting someone in hospital if you or anyone in your household is self-isolating because they have symptoms of coronavirus or have received a positive coronavirus test result. You also should not visit if you have been advised by the test and trace service that you need to self-isolate. 

沙巴体育appWhen deciding whether to visit someone in hospital, you should also think about the risks to your own health. People who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus or who are immuno-compromised will be at greater risk and are advised not to visit people in hospital at this time. 

If you want to visit a friend or loved one you should first contact the ward they are on to check what arrangements they have in place.

In most cases patients will be allowed one person at their bedside. If somebody is there to provide support to the person in hospital, for example as a carer, they will not count as a visitor and one other person will also be allowed to be at the bedside.

If it is possible to socially distance while visiting, and there are special circumstances, then the ward may allow two people to be there. For example, you may be allowed two people to visit somebody who is receiving end-of-life care.

沙巴体育appIf you’re able to visit, you’ll be asked to take precautions. This will include making sure you wash your hands when entering and leaving the hospital and not touching your face or eyes. You should also go straight to the ward you’re visiting and not visit other areas of the hospital. You will need to wear a face covering for the whole visit.

There is specific guidance in place for people who wish to visit someone during the final days of their lives. When a person is expected to only live for 24-48 hours, the hospice, care home, or hospital they are in will try to ensure that a close family member or friend is able to be with them. This will be the case even if the person receiving end-of-life care has coronavirus. Only one visitor will usually be allowed but if social distancing is possible, then two people may be allowed to visit. The hospital, hospice, or care home where your loved one is staying will be able to advise you of what precautions you will need to take when visiting. They will also tell you how long you are able to visit for.

沙巴体育appNot being able to visit a loved one is likely to be distressing. Try to find different ways to stay in touch such as over the phone or by video call. Some hospitals may allow you to deliver a phone if the person you want to visit does not have one. Even if they are unable to communicate with you, they may find hearing your voice comforting. You could ask staff who are caring for your loved one to pass on messages, pictures, cards or laminated photos.

沙巴体育appIt is especially upsetting if you are unable to visit someone you care about when they are in the last days or weeks of their life.  for anyone going through this difficult time.

What if I care for someone else?

沙巴体育app If you care for someone, we have information about how you can support someone at home.


Can I get a dentist appointment?

沙巴体育appFrom the 8 June, dental practices in England started to reopen. Not all dentists will be opening and those which are open will not be able to provide all the same treatment as usual. They will need to prioritise patients with the greatest need and to enable social distancing there will be fewer appointments available. Most dentists will not be able to offer routine treatment or check-ups at the moment. 

If you need dental help you should ring your dentist to see if they are open, what treatment is available and to book an appointment. Don't turn up at your dentist unless you have a booked appointment. You should not go to the dentist if you or anyone in your household is self-isolating because of symptoms of coronavirus or a confirmed positive test. You should also not visit the dentist if you have been advised by the test and trace service that you need to self-isolate. 

沙巴体育appEven if your dental practice is open, they may be unable to offer the treatment you need, and you may need to be referred to an urgent care centre. They will be able to advise you on what to do if this is the case.

沙巴体育appIf you do go to the dentist, there will be processes in place to keep you safe. You will be asked to wash your hands when you arrive and leave and there may be two metre markers in place in areas like waiting rooms. Dentists will be wearing PPE to keep you safe and will be cleaning down equipment between patients. You may be asked to wear a mask or be given one on arrival for when you are moving about the practice. 

沙巴体育appWhere possible you should go into the dental practice by yourself as this will help to limit the spread of infection. If you arrive early for your appointment try to wait outside. Some practices may ask you to wait in your car and will send you a text message when they are ready for you to come in.  

Share this page

Last updated: Jun 12 2020

More information on this topic

Test and Trace

The NHS Test and Trace service launched on Thursday 28 May and forms part of the Government’s strategy to reduce the...

Staying safe

How to stay safe while self-isolating, including advice on scams and abuse.

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top