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Northern Ireland GP patients encourage self-care

Patient group urges others to self-care, seek reliable advice online or ask pharmacist before seeing GP

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

A patient group associated with the Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland (RCGPNI) is urging patients to reduce the impact of the “incredible pressures” that GPs are facing by using self-care, reliable online help or asking a pharmacist for advice, where appropriate, before making a GP appointment. RCGPNI Patient Group said they want to encourage people to “get the most from their health and social care services and use them wisely”.

The group has launched a new information leaflet that explains to their fellow patients how they can better care for themselves, where they can find reliable health information online and how they can get the most out of all of their interactions with healthcare professionals. It also aims to get across to patients the value of GP appointments – making an appointment only when necessary, and cancelling it with as much notice as possible if they no longer need to attend.

The patient group explained that in recognition of the immense strain on general practice and other health care services – from workforce and workload challenges as well as increasing demand from patients – they were keen to “play their part” to ensure that all patients can access medical, mental health and social support when they need it.

RCGPNI Patient Group chair Karen Mooney said: “We have become all too aware of the incredible pressures that GPs and their teams are facing. As patients, being able to access services when we need them is our top priority, but we know that people are not making the most from all the services and support available to them within the community.”

She added: “Not only do we hope that some patients will think about the alternatives available to them before making an appointment with their GP, we also hope that the information we are providing will encourage those who avoid engaging with healthcare professionals to go and see their family doctor when they need to.

“There is a vast variety of healthcare professionals and staff available to us, each playing their part to keep our health service running; however, many of us do not make the most of their knowledge and expertise.” She pointed out that practice receptionists are trained by the GP and although they cannot diagnose or advise on medical conditions, can still offer a lot of information. She said: “We want to remind people that the entire GP team is there to help us get the most suitable service and best experience when we go to our local GP surgery.”

RCGPNI chair Dr Grainne Doran welcomed the patient group’s innovation, and agreed that many patients are unaware of the range of services available to them and unclear about the conflicting information available online. She said: “Our community pharmacist colleagues are an underutilised resource who can provide advice and treatment for many minor ailments and conditions, saving many people from waiting to see their GP unnecessarily.

“Our patient group is also reminding others about the value of GP appointments. Every day, people do not attend their booked appointments with their family doctor… this information leaflet encourages people to cancel appointments where they can so that spaces can be offered to those who need them.”

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