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14th October 2020

The NHS is Still Here: It’s always been ok to visit your GP

View all Early detection

With many places facing tighter restrictions, GP surgeries remain open. and if you are feeling unwell, your doctor, as Dr Helen Piercy explains, wants to see you.

It’s always been ok to visit your GP – even when the whole country was in lockdown – and if you’re in an area of local lockdown currently, it is still ok to contact your GP. What we need you to do first is phone for an appointment. You’ll then be assessed first of all, and, if you need to be seen face-to-face, your doctor will invite you in.

During the peak of the pandemic, we certainly saw a drop in the number of patients requesting appointments with the GP or the nurse or the team at their surgery. I think that patients were worried about catching coronavirus and so, instead of seeking help when they might have done in normal times, they worried about the risk of contracting coronavirus and decided to sit on their symptoms.

I think the other factor is that patients didn’t want to burden their doctor with their symptoms at that time but the important thing to remember is if you are unwell, your GP wants to hear from you.

At the practices where I work, patients are screened for coronavirus symptoms before they are allowed to be seen in the surgery. The doors are usually locked, so the only people who come in are those who then have their temperature checked and who are wearing a mask at the moment. They are then asked to gel their hands.

We have a one-way system around the GP surgery to ensure social distancing. I wear full personal protective equipment whilst meeting with each patients. Then after I’ve seen the patient, I clean down that clinical room and put on fresh PPE before I see another patient.

I would encourage anyone who is worried about their symptoms to pick up the phone and book an appointment with their GP. There’s obviously a crossover of symptoms between coronavirus – such as a cough – and symptoms that would be consistent with lung cancer. We want you to pick up the phone and discuss your concerns with us and together we will decide what happens next.

Some of the symptoms of lung cancer that we are watching for are:

  • when a patient coughs up blood
  • whether they have a persistent – and by persistent we mean three weeks or more – persistent cough
  • becoming short of breath
  • have a hoarse voice
  • are losing weight, or
  • have chest or shoulder pain that’s going on for a period of time.

In those instances, we really want you to ring your GP and book an appointment.