When should you go to the doctor?
Find an expert - Who are you going to call?
While it can be a good resource for lifestyle tips, the internet is never the right place for a medical diagnosis. However, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people have been putting off seeing their GP. This could be for a number of reasons – from concerns about safety to not wanting to put additional strain on the NHS. More and more people could be turning to ‘Dr Google’.
Doctors and nurses are urging the public not to delay seeking medical advice and support from a qualified professional. If you put off speaking to your GP about something that’s concerning you, there is a risk that the issue could become worse and harder to treat in future.
Benenden Health’s Society Matron Cheryl Lythgoe said: “If you have a medical issue that is causing concern it is important to discuss and receive accurate information – this will allow you to make an informed decision on how to proceed. Never delay in asking those questions as conditions are far easier to investigate, diagnose and treat in their early stages.”
Is it safe to go to the doctors?
GP surgeries have had to alter their method of access for patients to allow safe, quick access for all. All clinical settings have increased their already high standards for cleanliness and improved their access routes to ensure that patients are kept as safe as possible.
Many now offer telephone or online appointments in the first instance to ensure those who need to be physically seen aren’t put at increased risk. Chatting with a clinician over the phone or online gives many patients the ability to address any health and wellbeing concerns without increasing their risk of any viral transmission.
If you’ve been asked to see your GP in person, it’s important to remember to:
wear a face covering
maintain good hand hygiene by using the hand sanitiser provided, and washing your hands with soap and water if possible
maintain good respiratory hygiene by not touching the lower face unless necessary, cough or sneezing into a tissue (discard the tissue and wash your hands straight after). If a tissue isn’t available use the crook of your arm.
Whilst sometimes it can feel that the primary care teams are putting up barriers to you seeing the clinician, remember the teams are working to strict government and local guidelines. By following the guidelines, you can help to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Where can I go for medical advice and support?
Your medicine cabinet
A well stocked medicine cabinet can help you to be prepared for many common ailments - colds, headaches and minor injuries. The NHS offers useful advice on what should be your medicine cabinet essentials. Your local pharmacist may also be able to recommend things to keep in your medicine cabinet and first aid kit.
Pharmacists don’t just issue prescriptions, they can also give advice on minor illnesses such as sore throats, coughs, colds, flu, hay fever, earache, stomach complaints, skin rashes, cystitis, thrush, and aches and pains. You don’t need to make an appointment to see a pharmacist, you can just walk in. If the pharmacist thinks you need to see a GP they’ll tell you. Some pharmacists even have private consultation rooms so you don’t have to have embarrassing conversations on the shop floor.
Benenden Health GP 24/7 Helpline
This is available to all Benenden Health members and their immediate families. Make an appointment day or night for a telephone or e-consultation and you can discuss your medical concerns with a GP who can advise on a diagnosis and the best course of action. Although the GP can prescribe some medications over the phone (charges apply), they cannot make referrals to specialists or for further tests. To make an appointment, call 0800 414 8247 with your membership number to hand. Find out more about the GP 24/7 Helpline.
An appointment with your GP
If a pharmacist can’t help, and you don’t need urgent emergency care, you’ll need to make an appointment to see your NHS GP. They can diagnose illnesses and conditions, prescribe medications, refer you on for specialist care or tests, and manage chronic conditions. They can also carry out minor surgeries such as cleaning up infected wounds, change dressings and administer injections for complaints such as painful joints.
Due to the pandemic - and depending on what support you need - your GP might offer you a remote appointment over the phone. NHS figures reveal that 48% of GP appointments in May 2020 were carried out over the phone, compared with just 14% in February.
NHS 111 is for when you urgently need medical help or advice, but it’s not a life-threatening situation – for example, when you think you’ve broken your leg or the person you’re with is acting in a very confused manner. You will be put through to a fully trained adviser who will assess the symptoms. Depending on what’s needed, the adviser might then send an ambulance for you, direct you to a local service, connect you to a nurse or GP, or give you self-care advice.
The accident and emergency department is for just that – genuine life-threatening emergencies such as severe illness, bleeding, a loss of consciousness, chest pains, breathing difficulties, poisoning or major trauma. Ambulance crews will take patients to A&E but you can also go by yourself if your condition requires it.
Keep 999 for when there’s an acute medical emergency and someone’s life is at risk. For some conditions, such as a suspected heart attack or stroke, every second counts so call immediately.