Bosses fear people are avoiding the Vic to ease the burden on staff during the Covid-19 outbreak – and urged patients to seek urgent medical attention if they need it.
Lancashire in lockdown at Easter: Popular spots pictured empty as people thanked for staying at home
So-called “mini-stroke” cases have plummeted by 95 per cent from around 20 a day to just one while the number of people in hospital for heart attacks is down by a third.
The reasons for the fall are unclear but medics stressed some conditions require immediate treatment and those people should not avoid going to hospital during the pandemic.
Leanne Macefield, stroke unit ward manager, inset, said: “Normally get 20 people with suspected mini strokes (TIAs) referred into the unit a day, at the moment we are getting about one a day.
“Our patients are usually seen through GP referrals or through A&E but the numbers have fallen dramatically.”
Patients are urged to seek medical help after having symptoms of a TIA, even if they resolve and disappear. A TIA is a warning that you are at risk of having a major stroke and an assessment can help determine the best way to reduce the chances of this happening.
“Now we are seeing patients after they have suffered a severe stroke which can be life-changing or even life threatening,” Leanne explained.
“It is vital that people contact the NHS if they have symptoms such as, even if they appear to improve over time.
“We are particularly concerned during the lockdown that people are suffering at home alone and we ask everyone to check on neighbours, friends and family.”
The Lancashire Cardiac Unit, based at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, is also reporting a reduction in the number of patients suffering heart
Consultant cardiologist Dr Billal Patel, inset right, said: “This is highly unusual and very worrying as we fear patients may be delaying coming in to hospital.
“The patients we are seeing now are in a worse condition because of delays and we want to advise patients to call 999 if they get symptoms which do not go away within 10 minutes.”
On average the time between people first noticing symptoms and going to hospital has doubled from two to four hours, which medics say means they are at risk of more damage and a longer recovery time.
Meanwhile there has been an increase in the number of cancer appointments cancelled in recent weeks.
Dr Adam Janjua, a Fleetwood GP who is the cancer lead for the Fylde Coast NHS, said: “Cancer, heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses will not wait for Covid-19 to go away. If you have been fast-tracked for investigations into potential cancer, it is vitally important you do everything to attend that appointment.”
This is what you should do if you get symptoms
Symptoms of a TIA (mini-stroke) include: dizziness, slurred speech, drooping of the face or weakness in the arms.
If you are concerned that you have any TIA symptoms, even if they seem to improve over time, you can call the stroke unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on (01253) 951028.
If you experience symptoms of a heart attack – such pressure or tightness of the chest, pain in the jaw, arms upper body, shortness of breath, sweating and nausea – that do not go away in 10 minutes, call 999.