Feeling unwell? Choose the best service for your needs

The NHS in Leeds is asking people to choose the best service for their needs if they are feeling unwell or have a minor injury.

Whilst social restrictions continue to be relaxed by central government, local healthcare services across the city are seeing a significant increase in demand as people feel more comfortable coming forward seeking health care and advice.

Dr Sarah Forbes, GP and Associate Medical Director for Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Since March 2020, the challenges faced by the NHS have been unprecedented and we’re now seeing more people than ever, both in GP practices and in our emergency departments. Along with A&E, primary care is also dealing with record numbers of patients.

“Before you visit A&E or request a GP appointment, we’re asking people to think about which service is right for them. This helps us focus our attention on the most poorly people in our community.

“Many minor issues like a cough, sore throat and rashes can be dealt with at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet, but if you need health advice, the NHS website has a wide range of advice for how to treat aches, pains, rashes and other minor illnesses and conditions. We’d also recommend that people download the NHS app – https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/online-services/nhs-app/about-the-nhs-app/ – which has trusted health advice and also provides a record of your Covid vaccination. If you don’t have access to the web, you can speak to a pharmacist. They can recommend a treatment to help or will tell you if you need to speak to a doctor.

“If you’re not sure where to go for help visit www.111.nhs.uk online, and follow the prompts on-screen, which will point you to the right medical service for your needs. You can also call 111 from your telephone when it’s urgent, but not a health emergency. This is also the number to call if you have a minor injury, such as a cut, sprain, burn or if you think you’ve broken a bone, as you’ll be able to get an appointment at an urgent treatment centre or minor injuries unit.

“If you’ve already tried these other options, or they are not suitable, and you need medical help, GP practices are still here for you. As well as helping deliver the largest ever flu and COVID vaccination programmes, practices have continued to provide routine and urgent medical care for patients, doing so in a safe way, in line with the government’s guidelines, whilst protecting staff from the virus through limits on the number of people in waiting rooms to maintain social distancing and new ways of working. This has involved telephone first and online systems, so when patients call the practice, they speak to a clinician who deals with the issue or arranges a face to face consultation if necessary.  In March alone, there were over 469,000 recorded consultations which is higher than pre-pandemic levels; over half of these, 281,000, were face to face appointments.

“For all patients needing medical care, practices will continue to provide this in the most clinically appropriate way, through a combination of telephone, online and face to face appointments. By doing so, they can ensure even more patients get the care they need.

“However, please be aware that practices are currently busier than ever, and phone lines are exceptionally busy.  We understand that this can be frustrating but please be patient. Our staff are working very hard to deal with everyone but please help us to help you by choosing the right service.

“People who have concerns regarding ongoing conditions or any possible cancer symptoms such as a lump in your breast, changes in bowel habits, blood in your pee or poo, unexplained weight loss, moles that appear to change or cough that you’ve had for three weeks or more, please get in touch with your GP practice as soon as possible. We can assure you that you will be seen.

“We know the next few months will be difficult, but we will rise to the challenge. All we ask of people is to be kind to NHS staff; they’re doing everything they can to meet the needs of patients as safely as they can.”

COVID-19 case rates across the West Yorkshire region are currently higher than other parts of the country, and it’s important to remember that health centres and hospitals still need to follow strict social distancing and infection control measures to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to vulnerable patients and staff.

Editors notes

Leeds GP Dr Sarah Forbes, has recorded a video showing a typical working day for a GP https://youtu.be/dZQWc9RzHZM It gives a great insight into how most GPs are working now and how they continue to care for patients.