QUESTION; I really want to see my GP face to face, but I’m petrified that if I go to the surgery, I’ll get coronavirus. What should I do? Shelley, 31

ANSWER; the coronavirus, or Covid-19, has forced the medical world to rapidly alter the way it works, the emphasis being on patient safety and limiting unnecessary potential exposure to the virus, while still maintaining the same standards of good care that we have always aspired to. To address your fear directly, you aren’t more likely to get coronavirus by going to a doctor’s surgery. As the frontline of medical care, much thought has gone into how to reduce potential transmission of Covid-19. Methods put in place include dedicated hot clinics where persons with suspected coronavirus can be safely assessed and managed. Some of these are in GP surgeries, and involve a single room, often accessible by a second entrance, so that patients with and without symptoms of coronavirus don’t come into contact with each other. In other areas, Covid assessment clinics entirely separate from GP surgeries have been set up. When thinking about how best to access your GP, you may wish to consider the following

  • Can my request be dealt with over the telephone? Suitable examples might include a review of your medication. Don’t forget, most surgeries now have the facility for you to send in pictures which can be particularly helpful for skin conditions.
  • If you, or those around you, feel you are having a life-threatening event, such as a heart attack or stroke, please contact the emergency services in the first instance. It had been noted in the first month of lockdown that the number of presentations of suspected heart attacks and strokes had halved in some A&E units. Clearly the actual number hadn’t suddenly dropped overnight. Do not try to sit it out at home.
  • If you have any worrying symptoms of potential cancer, or a complaint that you feel would need your GP to examine you, please request the earliest available face to face consultation. Persons with rectal bleeding or sudden onset abdominal pain, to give just two scenarios, would need to be seen directly in the majority of cases.

QUESTION; My son and daughter in law recently split, after a very short marriage. He’s back living with us at the moment. It seems that she was verbally and physically abusive towards him, initially when drunk, but latterly when sober. Sadly, he’s flatly refusing to speak to his GP or try any counselling, even on line. I’m worried because he tells me he’s a failure and that although he wouldn’t do anything to himself, it wouldn’t bother him if he wasn’t here anymore. He’s in the police force and has had a breakdown in the past due to things he’s witnessed while on duty. Mercifully, there are no children involved. What can I say as a parent to help my son?

ANSWER; It is always difficult when a marriage or partnership breaks up, no matter how long the couple have been together. Furthermore, as a parent, whether your child is four or 40, you’ll always have the same level of concern for them at a time of emotional distress. Rather than trying to analyse the situation or give an opinion, allow your son to talk, and for you to be his sounding board. Reassure him that he is loved, and that he is not a failure in any way. No one is defined by their job, title, wealth or otherwise. While it may be difficult for you both, try to think of it as a temporary situation, that you will both come out of stronger. The issue of domestic abuse and violence against males is sometimes less publicised and there may be an assumption that this only occurs against women. However, both sexes can be and are victims of this type of abuse. Try to gently encourage him towards the basics such as a good daily routine, rather turning to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as alcohol. Although he may be completely against seeking professional help at this time, once he has got over the initial shock, he may be more amenable to talking to a doctor or trained counsellor.