Amid growing warnings of an approaching second wave of coronavirus, it’s essential that people continue to seek medical advice from their GP for other health issues and concerns.
That’s according to the Royal College of GPs, after its own research showed a marked drop in demand for routine GP consultations during the first wave earlier this year. With early diagnosis being key to the successful treatment of so many conditions, the concern is that people putting off seeing their doctor are risking their health and possibly even their life.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The fall in consultations is likely due to a number of factors, including patients having concerns about accessing GP services due to fear of contracting the virus or overburdening NHS services – and a desire to follow official messaging to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Many specialist services were also restricted, so GPs might not have always been able to make referrals except in urgent cases.”
But he stressed that things are different now, with a range of measures introduced to make it easier to consult your family GP in a covid-secure way. Putting off speaking to your doctor could be putting your health at much greater risk from other conditions.
“During a pandemic, other health conditions do not cease to exist,” said Prof. Marshall. “We’ve seen from health crises in the past that there are sometimes more deaths from conditions unrelated to the pandemic than the virus causing the pandemic itself.
“As GPs and our teams approach a likely second wave of COVID-19, we do not want to see this happen and we urge patients who have concerns about their health to seek medical assistance, particularly if they have signs that could indicate serious conditions, such as cancer.”
Although demand for GP appointments has steadily returned over the past few months, there is a real concern that a widely predicted ‘second wave’ of coronavirus could reverse the trend.
“General practice has been open throughout the pandemic,” said Prof. Martin, “and as a College we’ve worked to get the message out that the ‘stay at home’ guidance does not include when seeking medical care.
“Access to General Practice is currently different than usual, with most consultations being conducted remotely, for the very reason we want to limit footfall in our surgeries, and therefore help stop the spread of the virus. We hope this is reassuring for patients.
“For those who do need to come to the practice for a face to face appointment, safety measures will have been implemented to try to keep patients as safe as possible.”
Anyone with medical concerns should first contact their GP surgery by phone for advice on how to proceed from there.