The move comes after senior clinicians including the interim Chief Medical Officer expressed concern over a drops in A&E attendance and a 72 per cent drop in urgent suspected cancer referrals as fewer people are presenting with symptoms at medical practices.
Figures indicate patients are delaying seeing their GP during the pandemic and there has been a drop in urgent suspected cancer referrals, and a reduction in families bringing children for immunisation.
Reasons may include wishing to reduce the strain on the NHS, or concerns over becoming infected with COVID-19 as well as the misconception that doctors do not want to see patients.
The NHS is Open campaign, launching today (24 April) will urge people to contact their GP or local hospital if they have urgent health worries.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “It is vital for people to know that GP surgeries and hospitals are still there for them if needed.
“While we appreciate the public doing all they can to reduce the strain on our NHS at this challenging time, if people have serious health concerns or symptoms, it’s just as important as ever to seek immediate medical assistance.
“This pandemic does not mean we’ve stopped the fight against cancer, heart attacks or other serious health conditions. It is vital people continue to raise any health worries with their doctor at the earliest possible time and continue to attend regular check-ups and appointments when they are invited to do so.”
Dr Carey Lunan, a working GP and Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland, will feature in TV adverts as part of the campaign.
She said: “The NHS is open and it is safe. Appointments may feel a little different – they might happen on the phone or even by videolink.
If people need to be seen face-to-face, we can arrange that too.
“Accident and Emergency units are also still open and able to help. We are here for patients and we want to hear from anyone if they have an urgent medical problem.”
The marketing campaign which starts today will run on TV, radio and digital channels for an initial three weeks.
The campaign will encourage people to call their GP surgery, or 111 out of hours, if they have urgent health concerns. In emergencies, they should still dial 999.
Attendance at A&E and Paediatrics in Scotland has halved during COVID-19.
Attendance at A&E in week commencing 29 March was 11,020 and in week commencing 5 April 11,263 compared to normal average attendance of 25,000 per week. Paediatrics attendance is down 50 per cent in Scotland, with late presentation becoming an issue.
There has been a significant drop (72 per cent) in urgent suspected cancer referrals, as fewer people are presenting their symptoms to their GP practice.