This winter, there has been a dominant story across the media: the National Health Service (NHS) is in trouble. Whatever your personal feelings regarding the reasons for the NHS’ struggle, it is undeniable that the health system that cares for the nation is facing very testing times.
For those who have tried to obtain a doctor’s appointment, the above will come as little surprise. Obtaining a standard GP appointment is, sadly, incredibly difficult. Though the problems vary between regions, for the most part, people struggle to see a GP. This is due to lack of availability of GPs and restrictive appointment times that aren’t conducive to modern working patterns– a fairly potent mix that has no simple solution.
So, given the fact the NHS is going through such a rough time, what should you do when you want to see your GP but can’t obtain the appointment you require? Here are a few ideas…
Go to a pharmacy
For minor conditions, a pharmacist will be able to prescribe you treatment just like a doctor would. The list of conditions that pharmacists can treat for is limited, but for issues such as allergies or eye infections, they will likely be your best port of call. Not all pharmacies offer the consultation service, however; you’re best to look for big brands rather than small, independent pharmacies.
Contact an online doctor
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can now talk to a qualified, registered medical professional via an online Dr app. The app will allow for a full face-to-face (well, screen-to-screen) conversation, where you can detail any issues you are experiencing and even obtain a prescription. Just remember to update your doctor of using this consultation when you next see them, especially if you are prescribed medication.
Many hospitals operate a walk-in service, which is sometimes called Urgent Care. This can be used if you can’t see a doctor and you don’t feel like the problem can wait. However, do be warned that you’re likely to experience delays– many other patients are attending Urgent Care clinics because of a lack of GP appointments, so you might be in for a long wait. If possible, attend during the day, as the attendance levels tend to pick up in the evening. An Urgent Care doctor can’t refer you for scans or tests like a normal GP, but they can issue prescriptions for immediate complaints that you need relief from in the moment.
A warning note
It is not advisable to go to Accident and Emergency for issues that are anything other than, well, accidents and emergencies. There is every chance you will be turned away, so try all the other alternatives if your issue is not urgent.
If you have an underlying health condition, are pregnant, or caring for a young baby, then you will always be best calling your GP and asking for an urgent appointment. For anyone else, if you have concerns about your health, you can always call the NHS’ 111 phone number for further assistance.