THE number of people attending at hospital in Forth Valley with non-Covid related issues is still below normal levels.

And this is a concern for the area's medical director, who has encouraged people to make sure they are looking after themselves and accessing emergency services when they need to.

Across Scotland, the number of people attending at accident and emergency (A&E) departments has reduced significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.

This led to Gregor Smith, Scotland's interim chief medical officer, issuing a public plea last month for people with serious symptoms to ensure they seek medical assistance.

This applies particularly to those experiencing symptoms associated with heart attacks and strokes, such as such as chest pain, weakness in facial muscles, or issues with speech.

And it seems this is an issue which is also being noticed in Forth Valley, as medical director Andrew Murray, speaking at a recent press conference, said: "We did see our emergency admissions start to rise, but it's plateaued again.

"So our key messages are very much around making sure people don't neglect themselves.

"There's an apprehension that everywhere is really busy or really dangerous in relation to Covid.

"But actually, we've got capacity, and safe ways for people to be seen.

"If you're unwell, please do not leave it."

That message was echoed by Dr Graham Foster, NHS Forth Valley's director of public health, who said: "It's really really important we encourage people to look after themselves."

Dr Murray added that data from England suggests the fall in A&E admissions can be attributed to less people with minor injuries presenting for treatment.

While this was somewhat reassuring, it is not clear if the trend applies in Forth Valley.

Anyone who develops sudden, severe chest pain, or feels they may be having a stroke, should phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.