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DR ELLIE CANNON: Seeing your GP has never been easier… so do it

Over the years, I have been an outspoken critic of GP apps and technology. I feared it might damage the patient-doctor relationship, which I believe is vital to good care.

But almost overnight, the lockdown completely transformed the way I and other GPs work.

Face-to-face appointments were replaced by video calls so patients could stay at home, and those who needed further assessment could come in safely without having to sit around in a busy waiting room. Now, I will happily hold my hands up and say: it’s worked.

Dr Ellie Cannon, pictured, has advised people to make appointments with their GP as waiting lists have been slashed since the Covid-19 outbreak. She said people who have been putting off visiting their doctor should schedule a visit

Our waiting lists, previously four weeks’ long, have been slashed to just a day. It’s probably never been easier to get a consultation – and patients, particularly older ones find it very convenient.

As the lockdown eases, and we begin to move about more, my message is this: if you’ve been putting it off, call your GP.

There has never been a more important time to take control of your health.

So here is my five-point plan on how you can do just that…

1. It’s time to get tech-savvy

With many GPs now operating online, you should get up-to-speed with how things are working at your practice.

The key thing is to make sure you get to grips with everything now, before you have an urgent health problem. Check your surgery’s website, where you will be able to find lots of information.

Some GPs will now let you book appointments and video consultations online, saving you from the early-morning rush to get through on the phone.

Video consultations between GPs and their patients have taken off during the lockdown

Video consultations between GPs and their patients have taken off during the lockdown 

You may need to register online in advance for this service. The NHS also has an app, which lets you order repeat prescriptions and book appointments on your phone or tablet.

As I mentioned, video consultations have really taken off during lockdown. There’s no need to be intimidated by them.

All you need is a smartphone or a tablet with a camera. You’ll be sent a link to click at your allotted time, which will connect you to your GP.

And, as I said, anyone who has a health problem that can’t be dealt with virtually can still, of course, come in for a further assessment. GPs are still very much open.

2. Book that medication review

It has become increasingly apparent that people with underlying health conditions are most likely to be affected by Covid-19.

High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are known to increase the risk of being seriously unwell. Poorly controlled asthma is also a known risk factor. If you have a chronic health condition, now is the time to contact your doctor. Don’t put off that medication review or check-up any longer. We can help you get your health into the best shape it can be.

3. Stock up on health essentials

Panic-buyers cleared supermarkets and pharmacy shelves when the pandemic first struck –paracetamol turned into gold dust overnight and many people who did need painkillers were unable to get hold of them.

Now is the time to avoid the same thing happening again. Most people who get Covid-19 can manage their illness at home. So think now about what you might need. Paracetamol for adults and children, anti-inflammatories and antihistamines are a good start.

Dr Ellie Cannon advises patients to buy a thermometer, a blood pressure machine and an oxygen monitor as well as stocking up on essentials such as paracetamol

Dr Ellie Cannon advises patients to buy a thermometer, a blood pressure machine and an oxygen monitor as well as stocking up on essentials such as paracetamol 

At the very least I would suggest getting a thermometer – a high temperature can be a sign of Covid-19 – and a blood-pressure machine. In fact, blood pressure readings taken at home can be more reliable, as the stress of having it taken in surgery can cause it to rise unnaturally.

You may also want to look at buying the oxygen monitor or ‘oximeter probe’ I discussed in this newspaper a few weeks ago. This device tells you your oxygen level in the blood and could indicate if you are becoming seriously unwell with Covid-19.

4. Take a Vitamin D supplement

Official advice suggests we all take Vitamin D supplements during the winter, as many of us are deficient. Keep on doing so, even as we move into summer.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone, which our body produces in response to sun exposure on the skin. During the winter, when we get less sunlight, it’s hard for our body to make enough.

The same is likely to be true for people who are shielding or self-isolating at the moment. And that’s a worry, because Vitamin D has a really important role in helping our immune system to function as well as it can.

5. Get used to covering up

The Government is now recommending we all wear face coverings when on public transport and in enclosed spaces.

As many as eight in ten people have Covid-19 without any symptoms. Wearing a mask will stop you spreading it to other people, if you unknowingly have it.

Making your own saves precious supplies of medical masks for the doctors and nurses who need them most. The most important thing is to get a face mask you feel comfortable with.

They do feel hot and take a bit of getting used to. But they are part of the new normal as we wait for a vaccine.