Coronavirus: Nine ways you can support the NHS
Tip one: stay at home
Other countries in the grip of Covid-19 have seen their health services put under immense pressure.
Footage has shown an Italian hospital overrun with patients in their A&E, emergency hospitals have been built, and people have been transported via military helicopter in France to areas with more beds available.
Luckily, there are things we can all do to help the NHS ease the strain – and therefore save more lives – by trying to limit the spread of coronavirus, especially to patients more likely to fall seriously ill.
We are also able to support staff in small ways who are working long hours and in stressful conditions on the frontline of the pandemic.
1. If you think you have coronavirus symptoms, stay at home
The NHS has advised people who show signs of Covid-19 – including a high temperature and a continuous cough – to not go directly to a GP practice, pharmacy or hospital.
Help can be found on the NHS 111 online coronavirus service, meaning you can get advice without having to leave the house, which could start a chain of infections.
2. If you need medical help not related to coronavirus, do not go to GP or hospital as the first port of call
The NHS suggests you try and seek medical advice online or by calling NHS 111 first, before leaving the house.
“If you need medical help not related to coronavirus, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital,” NHS advice reads.
Leaving the house runs the risk of catching or spreading the virus – which can be asymptomatic. So, it is best to check if medical advice can be found at home first.
In case of life-threatening emergencies, always call 999 for an ambulance.
3. Listen to government advice, and stay at home
On Monday evening, Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown, with people only able to leave the house to get groceries, to exercise, to go to work (if homeworking is not possible) or for emergencies.
Otherwise, the message is simple: stay at home.
NHS staff have been sharing this message in recent weeks, encouraging people to keep indoors to limit the spread of the virus and to avoid the NHS from being overstretched.
Workers have shared images holding signs at work, saying: "We have stayed at work for you. Please stay at home for us."
Staff in Belfast shared a video plea over the weekend asking people to stay at home to tackle Covid-19 before the UK went into lockdown.
To put it simply, the government has said: “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
4. When you have to go outside, practice social distancing
Social distancing aims to stop people from coming into close contact with others, and therefore limiting the potential for the disease to spread.
If you go to the shops or to exercise – which is permitted once a day – then it is advised you stay at least two metres away, or three steps, from anyone else.
5. Have good hygiene, and wash your hands
To curb the spread of coronavirus cases and reduce the strain on the NHS, a simple step you can take is to wash your hands regularly.
The NHS advises uses soap and water and to wash often, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
When neither is available, use hand sanitiser gel.
6. Avoid using public transport during rush hour
If you have to use the bus or the train when going outside, it is best to travel when there are less crowds – and less chance of transmission.
If you do not have to use transport at all, avoid it completely – and practice social distancing.
7. Be mindful when shopping
Images shared on social media have shown queues building at shops, and shelves completely empty of essential products, such as toilet paper.
The NHS national medical director has urged people to be mindful and avoid panic-buying items, which NHS workers need as well.
“These are the very people that we will all need to look after perhaps us or our loved ones in the weeks ahead," Stephen Powis said.
"It is critical that by not stockpiling, by not selfishly shopping, by leaving those supplies that others too, that our health workers are able to get access to what they need too.
"These are the people that we will all be relying on more than we ever have done in the weeks ahead.”
8. Do not use emergency services unless it is a genuine emergency
As hospitals deal with more and more coronavirus patients, they could get much busier and be more demand for beds.
The NHS advises people to stay away from A&E – if they have coronavirus-symptoms or otherwise – and to try and seek help online or over the phone.
This reduces the risk of spreading the infection, especially vulnerable people more at risk of developing a severe illness.
The NHS reminds people to call 999 in case of life-threatening emergencies.
9. Help vulnerable people with getting essentials
For people more at risk of developing a severe illness from Covid-19, it is very important they stay at home as much as possible.
Family, friends or neighbours can offer support, and people not in at-risk groups can avoid ordering groceries online, leaving slots available for people who should be making every effort to stay at home.
For more information, read full NHS advice here