Doctor shares advice on how to be taken seriously by your GP

Jeremy Vine caller waiting five months for NHS appointment

In recent years it is almost inevitable that the winter period brings with it reports that the NHS is at breaking point. Delays at A&E and hospital wards being overrun with patients dominate the headlines.

It can be especially difficult to get a GP appointment as winter illnesses such as colds and the flu are circulating, raising demand. This can make it extremely off-putting to see medical help.

While there are some illnesses that can be treated at home or can get better with rest and time, others do require professional medical help. One expert has shared how to get the help you actually need when you know something is wrong.

In his Mail Online column, Doctor Max Pemberton urged people to be persistent when seeking answers about their health. “As a doctor, I know there are ways to get your worries taken seriously,” he said.

At this time of year it is “easy” to feel as if your symptoms can just wait until after Christmas, he said. But if you know deep in your gut that something is wrong, you should not delay.

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“I believe there’s a lot to be said for instinct when it comes to our own health or that of someone we love,” Dr Pemberton said.

He referenced a tragic real-life story from 2014 in which a one-year-old boy died from sepsis after his mother claimed doctors did not listen to her worries.

William Mead passed away a few days before Christmas. According to his mum Melissa, doctors and 111 operators continuously dismissed her concerns saying William’s case was non-urgent.

A report carried out by NHS England in 2016 concluded there have been 16 failngs in regards to his care as well as for missed opportunities to prevent his death.

In a similar tale reported by this year, four-year-old Daniel Klosi from Camden, died from sepsis in April despite multiple trips to the hospital by his parents.

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Dr Pemberton said: “Their story will resonate with many who have battled to have their concerns taken seriously by professionals.”

He warned that the care you receive in the UK can be “worryingly and dangerously inconsistent” depending on the professional you end up speaking to at that time.

“I’ve seen patients sent to A&E for the most trifling things — such as the time someone was told to come in because they had lost a contact lens (I’m not kidding),” Dr Pemberton.

“Apparently, the 111 operator said it might have got stuck in the eye, despite there being no pain or other symptoms to indicate this, and the patient was convinced it had fallen out!

“I’ve also seen incredibly sick people told not to worry, when they were in need of urgent care.

“I had one patient who’d been told by 111 and his GP to drink fluid and rest as he had a cold. In fact, he had pneumonia. By the time I saw him, he was barely coherent.

“I insisted he go to A&E where a chest X-ray confirmed my suspicions and he started a course of antibiotics.

“He was a man in his 30s, so a delay in diagnosis was unlikely to be life-threatening. But had it been a frail elderly lady, she might not have made it through the night.”

This is especially scary as a parent, Dr Pemberton said, as your children can go from being “incredibly resilient” to “terrifyingly” fragile in seconds.

Mum and Dad “often have a sixth sense” when it comes to their children, he said.

Dr Pemberton said: “They know them better than anyone else and most paediatricians understand this.

“Numerous times I’ve seen cases where a parent has had a ‘feeling’ things weren’t right and, yes, their child was indeed unwell.”

What to do if your concerns aren’t being heard

With this in mind Dr Pemberton shared what to do if you don’t think your health concerns are being taken seriously.

“If you are worried and things don’t seem to be getting better, here’s my advice,” he said.

  • Write a list of symptoms and when they started — this helps demonstrate things aren’t improving or indeed are getting worse
  • Keep a log of calls and note the person you’ve spoken to — was it a phone operator, a nurse, doctor, a physician’s associate or a pharmacist?
  • Make it clear that you’re worried with good cause.

He added: “Listen to that niggling voice, trust your instincts and don’t take no for an answer.”

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