Light at the end of the tunnel – Dr David Crichton

The weather appears to be improving after last week’s much-needed rain! The gardens and parks are certainly looking fresher and healthier as a result.

With the good weather and the easing of some of the lockdown restrictions, I’m sure some of you will be going out and about – if you are, please remember to follow the guidance Staying safe outside your home if you are going to spend time in a public space:

  • Keep your distance from people outside your household
  • Keep your hands and face as clean as possible
  • Avoid being face to face with people outside your household
  • Avoid crowds
  • Wear a face covering, particularly if you are attending a health appointment or travelling on public transport.

Spending time outdoors in the sunshine is good for topping up your vitamin D levels and for your general wellbeing too. However, excessive sun exposure can result in sunburn, rashes or the aggravation of existing conditions such as eczema. So please do stay safe in the sun; use sunscreen, cover up with clothes, hat, sunglasses and spend time in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.

For those people who are shielding, I appreciate that you are advised not to spend time in public spaces to reduce your risk of catching the virus. Hopefully, you can still enjoy the sunshine and fresh air in your garden if you have one, a courtyard or balcony. Being outside is good for your mental health, it’s a great mood booster.

As a GP, I also know that many people are nervous about going out, not just to enjoy the fresh air or to shop, but to seek medical help or to attend a health appointment. Please be reassured that health services are open for you. Safety measures have been put in place in all health settings – local practices, hospitals and pharmacies, both to keep you and our staff safe. So don’t sit at home worrying about your health. We want to avoid missing serious conditions like heart disease, early diabetes or cancers.

It’s also vital that if you do need treatment for a health condition, we can start this as early as possible, so I’m asking you all to think about your health and if you need to speak to someone, please don’t be afraid to ask.

Services are open and available to support your health needs, they may just be different to how you have experienced them before:

  • Telephone triage before your appointment to check you don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus and to ensure you are referred to the right medical professional
  • Video and telephone consultations with a GP or nurse
  • Social distancing – you may be asked to wait in your car before your appointment or you may have to queue outside
  • Practices and hospitals may have dedicated zones/areas to keep people separated and safe
  • Staff will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

I am pleased that more patients are seeking help for health concerns and medical conditions again. I’ve certainly seen an increase in patients calling our practice where we are usually able to support them over the phone. If you do have to visit the practice, for example if you have received an invitation for cervical screening and need to attend for a smear test or to attend for routine vaccinations, please be reassured, it is safe and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

To finish, here are a few sources of support and advice available:

  • NHS 111 – if you don’t have internet access, call to speak to someone
  • Your local practice – visit their website or call them. You will be advised how they can help and will be reassured.
  • Your local pharmacist Doncaster CCG website – Accessing NHS services.
  • NHS Health at Home – useful information on how to easily access NHS services online, from the comfort of your home. You can find out how to contact your GP, order repeat prescriptions and manage your wellbeing and existing conditions – without leaving your home.