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Patients should present in primary care earlier, say GPs

People who delay going to their GP face needing stronger treatments and too many rely on the internet for information, experts have warned.

A poll for The Information Standard - an organisation backed by NHS England - found 41% of people have put off visiting their doctor despite worrying symptoms, with more than two-thirds (68%) saying this led to their problem getting worse or not going away.

More than one in three (36%) were told by their GP they should have visited earlier, one in five (20%) needed a stronger course of treatment and 17% were told they had had a lucky escape.

More than half (55%) of those who put off a trip to the doctor thought symptoms would clear up on their own and 39% did not want to waste their GP’s time.

Some 53% of those who put off going to the doctor had also researched their symptoms on the internet, while others tried to self-treat at home.

When delaying, women were more likely than men to turn to the internet for health information (59% compared with 43%).

Ann Robinson, director of public awareness for The Information Standard, which certifies health and care organisations as reliable sources of information, said: “People are delaying their GP visit for various reasons but, regardless of the reason why, our concern is that people are admitting to self-diagnosing and self-treating in the meantime.

“Unreliable health information in these circumstances could then have a detrimental effect on their health.

“If people are looking for health information, they should make sure it’s trustworthy so that they can make a fully informed and safe decision.

“Our advice is simple; look out for The Information Standard quality mark on health websites and leaflets - if you can see the mark then you can feel confident that the information you’re reading is reliable.”

The poll was of 1,500 people.

Readers' comments (2)

  • This is unreliable.

    When working in out of hours, it was amazing how many people scramble to get appts in out of hours despite having symptoms for a long time; and use excuses such as they cant get appointments, despite reluctantly confirming that they haven't even tried within the preceding month. The amount of people that attend with a mild or minor problem on a Friday evening despite being able to work all week is stunning. Especially when many of them let slip that they want to get "everything sorted and checked out" for the weekend or a holiday.

    They have an unrealistic view of what out of hours is - ie something so urgent that it cannot possibly wait until their surgery opens in the morning - and think it is just an extension of their doctors surgery.

    Obviously, they are discharged after a 10-15min consultation with "red flag advice" ie worsening symptoms or what to do if it doesn't improve. We have had people come back time and again without attempting to attend their practice. They do not comprehend that only emergency referrals are possible.

    So it is little surprise that these people will then finally attend their GP and be sent for referrals for tests or secondary care.

    If I had a toffee for every patient who had told me that their doctor said they "should have come sooner" as they "could have been really ill or died" then I would have none of my own teeth. I personally don't know many doctors who have said this on more than 1 or 2 occasions. And if I had a pound for every patient that told porkies about their attempts to get an appointment, I would be able to retire. Its strange that they can always get one when they ring from my telephone during the day, usually within the next few days.

    I totally agree that patients should be informed of the The Information Standard quality mark, I do hope 111 know this and inform patients appropriately.

    Other than this, people really should be looking after their own health and self help should be encouraged more. It is the patients responsibility to ensure that they are up to date with their primary care problems and stop accessing emergency care for minor or chronic ailments within their own surgeries, out of hours or even ED.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Perhaps some people don't attend their GP surgery because they can't get an appointment when they need one?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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