Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Stats show that around 9 in 10 GP appointments are conducted via text message
“You’re never too old to call your GP when you’re concerned about something… a cough can really start to interfere with your life” – these are some of the health messages and messages from the medical fraternity this week.
If you didn’t, you were not alone. The NHS says it has a chronic lack of doctors. In the past four years, it has lost a quarter of its doctors, and it has asked for more.
So what has brought about this pattern of decline? This is where, according to doctors, it all starts with we worry too much.
Myron Maskell, GP and clinical director at the RCGP, said people’s worry over their weight had led to more women in their forties and fifties taking up mobile apps to lose weight.
There were more than 17 million non-urgent GP consultations last year, of which a quarter were completed on a mobile phone, and sometimes by a doctor not available in-person.
And Dr Maskell says that we have other things on our minds too. The pressure of modern life has also lead to people neglecting their health.
That is partly due to the unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves and our appearance – and the artificial clamour of social media.
This, along with overworked GPs and a desire to take charge of our own health without face-to-face consultation, means more of us are skipping out on our appointments.
A number of other things have led to NHS staff not getting as much done, according to Dr Wendy Savage, medical director at NHS Improvement, the body responsible for making sure the health service has enough funding to keep running.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Officials have said it is not possible to predict with certainty how many GPs will leave the profession
An ageing population and more and more people using trolleys in A&E departments has added to the pressure on A&E departments.
You only have to look at what’s happened in England to see the strains on the NHS, with health officials saying it is not possible to predict with certainty how many GPs will leave the profession.
Dr Savage said: “It is clear that when more people use phone services and groups, GPs are more likely to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The UK’s biggest GP organisation, the Royal College of General Practitioners, has been getting around this by launching a newsletter, which comes in the morning to start the day with the latest news and advice from your doctor.
When the last GPs’ contract expired at the end of 2016, the college said that more than 43,000 patients had not been able to see their GP as services were cut in many areas of the country.
You’ll get a summary of the day’s e-newsletter by e-mail and a copy of the executive summary from Google or Amazon, and if you get a new employer it’s also included in the new work email.
But whether it’s going to save a doctor’s time or not is another question.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Now the Royal College of General Practitioners is going one step further and encouraging people to text their doctor for advice
There was an opportunity this week to put down the phone and come to our GP – but what if we felt embarrassed? How could we tell our peers in a good light, in a meaningful way?
GPs from the RCGP also talked about the idea of appointment virtual reality – where patients could talk to their doctor face-to-face but through a smartphone.
There is also the solution of seeing your doctor – in person, face-to-face.
This means trying to get to your surgery, waiting in a long line, eating sandwiches and lining up for the mirror while everyone else sits back and watches you.
It can take some getting used to, but if it’s done in a friendly, warm way (you’ll get a handwritten thank you note), there’s a chance you may find you’ll go back, or even stick around for coffee or cocktails.
There’s also the same possibilities if you use your smartphone to see your GP more often: instead of having to call your GP office for an appointment (or try to book an appointment on the NHS Choices website) you could use your smartphone to find