THE number of people visiting hospital emergency departments has stabilised after the precipitous drop caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

Attendances in A&E units last week were fractionally up across Scotland at 11,263 compared to 11,020 the previous week, but remain at a near record low.

The latest official figures are around 60 per cent down from the start of March, when there were more than 26,000 attendances country-wide.

Last week, other figures showed a sharp jump in deaths of all kinds being registered in Scotland, only around half of which were attributed to Covid-19.

It raised fears some people were avoiding hospitals because they feared catching Covid-19 or didn’t want to be a burden on the NHS.

It prompted interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith to urge people not to put off seeking treatment for health problems such as chest pains and bleeding. 

The continued low level of attendances in A&E saw an improvement in waiting times, with 92.7 per cent of people getting seen and treated within the four hour target.

Only 69 people had to wait over eight hours, and 12 over 12 hours.

By comparison, in the first week of March, just 83.8% of people were treated within four hours, 803 waited more than eight hours and 279 waited more than 12 hours.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged people not to ignore serious symptoms and go to A&E with urgent problems 

She said: “The A&E waiting times figures for the week ending April 5 show that 92.7% of people were seen and treated within four hours. 

“This is due to the continued hard work and dedication of staff in our NHS who are providing an exceptional level of care during these extraordinary times. 

“Each and every one of you has my very grateful thanks.

“While members of the public are continuing to listen to advice and only going to A&E if illnesses are immediate or life threatening, I would like to remind people not to ignore early warning signs of serious conditions. 

“If you have new symptoms then it’s vital you get this checked out either by contacting your GP, or if symptoms are urgent by attending A&E.

“We are working closely with health boards and partnerships to ensure robust plans are in place to strengthen capacity and minimise the impact of Covid-19 across the health system.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "It is essential to keep frontline hospital services operating within their capacity, but we must make sure people aren't jeopardising their health for fear that there are no safe places to turn or that they will be a burden. 

"It is important that people with illnesses or injuries unrelated to Covid-19 know that they can still get the help they need and that other urgent advice and medical treatment is still going ahead."