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From personal experience ,working in a busy GP surgery ,I have come across patients who just don’t have a clue what is the best option to take when illness or accidents occur. On one hand, there is the person who insists on being seen straight away with the slightest ailment. In contrast to this there are people who ignore potentially life threatening symptoms because they don’t want to be a nuisance or, quite commonly, are scared to take the time off work.
NHS Direct Online is designed to help people who have diagnosed conditions. It is packed full of useful information on how, where and when to get the best treatment on the NHS. It has helpful advice for all minor ailments and will tell you when to see the doctor and how urgent the problem is without causing undue concern.
The home page has links to all the different sections and lists “Hot Topics” which are items discussed in the news at the moment. Topics listed recently have been the threatened flu pandemic, MMR/ autism concerns and an explanation of MRSA.
Here is a summary of what you can expect to find on the site;-
HEALTH ENQUIRY QUESTIONNAIRE This is quite a lengthy process and must not be considered for urgent queries. After filling in quite an intrusive questionnaire ( not recommended when you’re feeling unwell) you can send a health query which will be answered by a Health Information Professional, by email, within 5 days! You will be informed that they do not diagnose and will only comment on named conditions. The service should not be used for counselling or a second opinion. The Health Care Professionals are bound by the rules of confidentiality but they cannot guarantee the security of the internet. The information given will be stored securely for a period of 5 years. I’m not too keen on this idea and would recommend that anyone worried about a symptom or illness should perhaps use the NHS Direct Helpline, (tel no 0845 4647, calls are charged at local rate) .Here you can discuss problems by telephone with a much more personal approach. I personally would be a little disheartened if, after waiting 5 days for a reply, I was told to see my GP, which I suspect is what happens in most cases.
HEALTH ENCYCLOPEDIA This is a useful search page for any medical condition. There are three types of search method … By subject area, alphabetically or by inputting a word in the search box. (I don’t recommend the search box, you will be sent loads of information which you will have to plough through, most of which is irrelevant!) The alphabetical and subject area searches are excellent, with concise, informative advice on all medical conditions. Each medical condition is split into sections. There is Introduction, Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes.The information is obtained simply by clicking on the required field.
BEST TREATMENTS Assuming that you know what your condition is, the Best Treatment section is a helpful guide to make sure that you are being given all the correct help you need. It aims to inform the patient of the correct drugs and any side effects caused by the medication. It should have details of any operations that may be available and the pros and cons of undertaking surgery.
SELF HELP GUIDE This section covers areas which are most commonly requested. This includes;- When is it safe to treat a problem at home, by using over the counter medicines?. What would be an emergency situation? How to deal with an emergency situation When it would be necessary to attend the Accident and Emergency department or ring 999 for paramedic assistance.
There are some COMMON MYTHS regarding GPs and A & E departments. For example;- Antibiotics are NON effective to viruses (colds, flu etc) and will only suppress the immune system. By attending A & E , patients will NOT skip waiting lists.
NHS SERVICES Ever needed to know what NHS facilities are closest to your home?. By entering your postcode, this will give you a list of the 5 nearest GP surgeries, Dentist, Opticians and Chemists. By clicking on individual items there is information on names , addresses, telephone numbers and opening times. This information is invaluable especially on weekends, evenings and Bank Holidays.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Some examples of these would be:- How do I know if my baby is ill? How do I find an NHS dentist? How do I deal with minor burns? When do I need a sicknote?
The questions and answers are compiled using anonymous online enquiry records and patient feedback. I think this is a great idea. How many people complain, quite justifiably, that they can’t get through to their GP surgery or that appointments aren’t readily available. One of the reasons why is that lines are blocked and appointments taken by people requiring answers to just this type of question. By finding the information online a huge problem could be reduced
HEALTHSPACE Here you can create a space to securely store all you own and your family’s medical health information. You can keep a record of immunisations, childhood illnesses, medication and even appointment times (which can be set up as email alerts) If you need to remember that Johnny had chicken pox in 1986 and that your tetanus jab is due, here’s the place to log it. Coming soon is “Choose and Book”, an online booking system for first hospital appointments.
Everyone knows that doctors are in short supply and appointments scarce. Hopefully this service will inform and advise members of the public so that GP time is used more effectively.