GETTING to see a doctor can be so difficult many patients have been heading to A&E with ailments a GP could deal with.
NHS data has recorded an almost 80 per cent rise in patients attending with sore throats, while visits for coughs, earache and even hiccups have also surged.
GPs want to help people in genuine need, but much of their time is taken up by people with ailments that don’t need their attention[/caption]
In April the government said it expected all patients needing a GP appointment to be seen within two weeks.
The Royal College of GPs said 85 per cent of appointments happen within two weeks and nearly half on the same day.
Today Sun on Sunday doctor Jeff Foster says there are some things that people SHOULD always go to a GP about — while other concerns could be dealt with by a pharmacist to ease the pressure on the NHS.
He said: “All GPs want is to try and help patients and there are ailments we wish people would come to us sooner with.
“But there are some things we dread hearing and these random requests take up a lot of our time, when patients could see a pharmacist or nurse practitioners.
“We all know of the pressures in the NHS and doctors are dealing with patients during appointment slots which are usually just ten minutes long.”
Here are five things you should see your GP about — and five others that can be treated elsewhere.
WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW…
I NEED ANTIBIOTICS FOR MY COUGH
Historically this seemed to be a given, but the evidence is that most coughs and colds are viral, so antibiotics won’t work.
It’s not always what the patient wants to hear but unless you have an underlying health or lung problem, most coughs that last less than two weeks can be managed with over-the-counter medications, so speak to your pharmacist as your first port of call.
I HAVE A SORE THROAT – I THINK IT IS TONSILLITIS
When we suffer with an infective sore throat, generally it can be either a viral pharyngitis or a bacterial tonsillitis. We use a system called the Centor Criteria to help us decide if an infection might be bacterial.
Chances that increase your risk of a bacterial infection include being under three, swelling of the tonsils, tender lymph nodes in your neck, a fever, and the absence of a cough.
However only 50 per cent of sore throats are bacterial.
I would recommend seeing a pharmacist first for over-the-counter medication.
I HAVE A VERRUCA I CAN’T GET RID OF
Verrucas and warts are caused by a virus.
The principle of over-the-counter treatment is that you damage the skin layer, stimulating an immune response.
Verrucas aren’t sinister, but can take up to three years to go.
If you would like to have one removed earlier, podiatrists or chiropodists are where we tend to direct patients, as treatment for them is not available on the NHS in every area.
MY BLOCKED NOSE WON’T GO
Most bugs have a time frame of a few weeks before we feel 100 per cent.
Exposure takes a few days, onset of symptoms takes another few, then slow resolution as our bodies produce antibodies.
If the cause of the nasal infection is something new or we’re already run down, this can commonly mean it takes two or three weeks, which is normal.
There are many over-the-counter treatments available via a pharmacist that are much more effective in reducing your symptoms than anything we might offer as a doctor.
MY CHILD HAS A PROBLEM WITH THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM
If your child is eating and drinking fine and passing urine and stools normally, and most importantly your child is developing normally, there’s usually nothing to worry about[/caption]
When children start nursery school they are exposed to dozens of other children which causes repeated exposure to viral illnesses.
In the first few years of life the average child can have up to ten infections annually.
But as long as they recover, it is just part of growing up.
If your child is eating and drinking fine and passing urine and stools normally, and most importantly your child is developing normally, there’s usually nothing to worry about.
WE DO WANT TO KNOW…
I HAVE BLOOD IN MY URINE
In women this is commonly due to either urinary tract infections or bleeding during your cycle, but it can also be a sign of kidney disease, bladder or kidney cancer.
In men, blood can be a sign of urine infection, but also a sign of cancer and should always be checked.
I’VE LOST WEIGHT WITHOUT TRYING
Many of us fluctuate by a few pounds throughout the year, but unintentional weight loss can indicate a number of conditions, including hormone problems, infections and even cancer, so if you’ve lost weight without trying, you need to see your GP.
WHAT’S THIS NEW MOLE, BUMP OR GROWTH?
We all develop moles, skin tags or benign lesions, but any new lump or bump with skin changes or a new mole should be checked by your doctor.
The vast majority are non-cancerous but get them checked to rule out melanoma.
I’VE HAD A COUGH FOR THREE WEEKS
A three-week cough always merits investigation[/caption]
The normal infective process means we gradually get more unwell for a week before generating antibodies to fight infection.
After the bugs are killed, residual inflammation can take up to a week or so to resolve.
This is completely normal, but if the cough stays, it can be an indication of other underlying illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or lung cancer.
A three-week cough always merits investigation.
I’VE GOT ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION
We know it can be embarrassing, but the most common cause of ED in men over 40 is narrowing of the arteries from cardiovascular disease.
Delaying a diagnosis can increase your risk — you have around a three-year window from the onset of symptoms to a possible cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.