Patients can help their doctors – and themselves – by staying warm, consulting the NHS website, speaking to a pharmacist, and thinking about what their granny would have done if she got flu, writes Dr Punam Krishan.
I recently wrote of my desire to have longer appointments with my patients, a vision not too distant in the future I hope. However, I have since realised that this doesn’t help anyone at the present moment, especially as we enter the busiest time of year – which every doctor dreads. I bet that you are busy planning for the festivities which can be both joyful and stressful in equal measure. However the one area I often see deteriorate during this period is our sense of responsibility for our personal health and well-being.
Patients can be extremely generous to their practices over Christmas and bring in treats to express their gratitude. As much as mince pies can transiently ease our stress levels, they do not help with the overall mounting pressures and demands placed upon us health professionals particularly during the annual winter crisis. So as I sat in surgery this past week, I thought about how you could help both yourself and your GP this Christmas and beyond.
The bitter cold brings us many challenges, flu being one of them. However this and the common cold, sore throat, aches, low-grade fever, diarrhoea and vomiting doesn’t need a doctor.
These symptoms are generally viral and what they need is for you to be kind to yourself and rest up. A common myth is that antibiotics are needed for such ailments, but this is not the case so before phoning your GP, have a look at the nhs.uk website, speak to your pharmacist and, dare I say it, think about what your granny would have done.
Did you know that keeping warm really can prevent illness, especially for those who are vulnerable such as the elderly and frail, the young, those with long-term chronic problems or disabilities and those on low income who can’t afford heating.
Spread kindness and provide support to anyone you know who fits this bill because they are at risk.
GP practices close for the public holidays so prepare yourself for this too. If you are on long-term medication, please don’t wait until Christmas Eve to request your repeat medication – this irritates doctors no end and placing pressures on the out-of-hours emergency services for such minor requests is most unfair for all.
Do your homework before your GP appointment – I call it “project me”. This does not involve Google, what it involves is you spending some time to work out why you have made your appointment.
You may be thinking this is the job of the GP but this is a misconception. We can figure out the problem and find solutions, but only you know the full story because you are the master of your own mind-body.
So give yourself some time, reflect and write down the “why”, “when” the problem started, a brief timeline of your symptoms, and identify any possible triggers or relievers. Next, write down what you hope the outcome to be. We all have expectations and when unmet without discussion, we can feel frustrated so please don’t let these feelings fester.
Next up is the ‘dreaded list’! Your GP has 10 minutes and this is not long so be mindful and realistic about what you expect them to achieve. Prioritise and if it’s more than one problem, book a double appointment. This will ease pressure for all.
The greatest gift you could ever give us health professionals is investment in yourself. If we could free up time from managing minor ailments, we would have more time to help those who really need true medical care.
Punam Krishan is a GP and is on Twitter @drpunamkrishan