Help Us Help You
In this section we offer you advice on contacting your doctor in various circumstances.
When to Contact Your Doctor
We are all aware of the increasing demands on our doctors to treat more patients. What is more concerning is that requests for home visits have trebled in the last 10 years. Your doctor is able to treat eight patients in an hour at his/her surgery but only one or two an hour if making home visits. For this reason, the Government has made some important changes to help doctors cope with the demands for an out-of-surgery hours service. This allows your doctor to weigh up carefully whether you need to be seen and, if so, where and when.
Is my problem urgent or can it wait until the morning?
You should contact your doctor during out-of-surgery hours only when you are worried that you or a family member may be seriously ill. All requests for Medication should be done during normal surgery hours.
When should I call an ambulance?
- If someone has collapsed or is choking and you are unable to help, then call an ambulance straight away.
- In particular, if you experience chest pain for more than 10-15 minutes which may be accompanied by nausea and sweating, dial 999 and let the ambulance service know that you think you may be having a heart attack, then take an aspirin (it must be an aspirin) / (Research shows that aspirin reduces complications following a heart attack)
- If an adult chokes - stand behind them and firmly push your fist into their upper stomach to cause the swallowed object to be coughed up.
- If a child chokes - then turn them upside down and thump them on the back.
How to help your doctor
There will always be a doctor available to help you in an emergency, but do think twice before contacting your doctor outside normal surgery hours.
- If a problem develops during the day, try and consult while the surgery is open.
- Do be prepared to take time off work to see your doctor if necessary.
- Requests for home visits should be made as early in the day as possible.
- Help us by making a separate appointment for each member of your family who needs to be seen.
- Can your problem be dealt with through a telephone consultation?
There are other health professionals in the community who are able to offer help and advice. If you have a health problem, consider asking your pharmacist, health visitor or practice nurse who may be able to help you. Pharmacists are medicine experts and are available for advice on medical and health-related issues.
Before you see your doctor
Before you see your doctor it is advisable to think about what you want to say or ask. Write it down on a piece of paper and take it along. Do remember that your doctor's time is limited -perhaps only to 5-10 minutes. These are the points you should think about before your visit:
- what is the most important reason for the visit?
- how long have you had the complaint, or when did it begin to get worse?
- which medicines are you taking?
- write down the names or take them along with you (This includes any remedies which you might have bought yourself from a pharmacy or chemist, such as painkillers, laxatives, herbal remedies, etc.)
If you believe that your complaint or complaints could be linked to any medicines, do not hesitate to tell your doctor.
If you believe that you know what is causing your illness, tell your doctor that too.
Telephoning Your Doctor
When you phone your doctor outside surgery hours, your call will be diverted to a special answering service. You will then be put through to a doctor who may not be your own. Be sure to describe your symptoms and give details of any medication you may be taking. Try and give as much information as possible so that the doctor can decide what is best for you.
Am I fit to travel?
The doctor will ask you to come to the surgery if you are fit enough to travel. If it is outside normal surgery hours, you may be asked to go to another surgery or emergency centre; this way the doctor is able to see more patients. It is your responsibility to arrange your own transport.
Only the doctor can decide whether you are too ill to travel and need a home visit. Do bear in mind though, that the doctor will attend those patients in greatest need first.
Do I need to go straight to hospital?
Based on the information you have given the doctor, he or she may suggest you go straight to hospital and will make arrangements for this. Most of the time, however, you would be asked to make your own way to hospital, but if you need treatment on the way, then the doctor will call an ambulance for you.
Take someone straight to hospital if they have taken an overdose (remember to take the container/packet with you), suffered severe burns, deep cuts or injuries due to accidents, eye injuries or nosebleeds which will not stop.