Urgent medical help in the world of Coronavirus

Urgent medical help in the world of Coronavirus
Dr Tim Dalton, Local GP and Chair of NHS Wigan Borough CCG

Does it feel like Coronavirus is ever going to go away?  I’m really not sure.  I certainly can’t see the end in sight yet.

This worries me.  It worries me because during the height of the outbreak in this country, people took extremely good care to only use health services when they really needed them, which helped to keep them safe from COVID.

In some ways, this was both good and bad.

Referrals for cases of suspected cancers went down as people weren’t contacting their GPs about worrying symptoms (bad), people went to GPs less with things like colds, sore throats and rashes (good).  There were fewer people attending A&E for minor sprains and stomach aches (good), but there were also fewer people going to A&E with suspected heart attacks and strokes (bad).

Only time will tell how much impact the more concerning of these behaviour changes will have, but I would really like to hope that the good behaviour changes will stay.

In days gone by, people knew how to manage stomach aches, sore throats and rashes.  They could go to the chemist, have a chat with them and get effective treatments or they knew that you just had to wait it out for a few days.  This behaviour returned with COVID and I really hope it stays with us whilst healthcare services battle through potentially our toughest ever winter.

Now, I don’t want people to think that I am saying you shouldn’t seek help if you are worried about your health – you absolutely should! But as we think and plan for a winter in the NHS that includes the very real threat of further COVID outbreaks, I do want people to think about how they can be responsible in looking after their own health wherever possible.

Stock up your medicines cabinet.  Use your chemist (pharmacy) when you need a bit of advice.  Sign up to AskMyGP with your practice so that you can contact your GP practice easily and get quick replies.

And if you do need medical help urgently, and it isn’t a heart attack or stroke, don’t go straight to A&E.  Instead use your GP – call them or message them for help; they are there for you.  If your GP isn’t open, then ring 111 or use 111 online.  They can book you an appointment with the out of hours GP, or even your own GP on the following day.  They will also tell you if you really do need to go to A&E.

This is really important.  What you really, really don’t want to be doing this winter is sitting in waiting rooms with lots of other people.  We need to be able to keep people safe and socially distanced, which means that even in an emergency we need to know who is going to be coming and when as much as possible.

So please only go straight to A&E if you have a life-threatening or serious illness or injury, like a suspected heart attack or stroke, instead, ring your GP or 111 first and help us to keep you safe and well.


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