Can I still access psoriasis care from my GP during lockdowns and tiered restrictions?

Woman appyling psoriasis treatment to skin

This content reflects the views of the individual blogger and is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.

As the country moves through different lockdowns and tiered restrictions you may be wondering whether you can continue to access your GP for routine psoriasis care – as sometimes we may need additional flare care during this time.

I chatted with my close friend, who is also a GP, and reviewed the NHS guidance to find out what the situation is in the UK to summarise how we can get the help we may need this winter.

How are things different this time?

A lot has changed since March, back then we did not know a lot about COVID-19 and GP practices were not all set up to operate remotely. Some rapidly transitioned to offering digital remote services however this has been patchy. 

GP surgeries now have a much better understanding of what COVID-19 is, and what they need to do to keep both practice staff and patients as safe as possible.
When you call your doctor's surgery, expect to be triaged. This means you are asked questions about why you need to see your doctor, and what symptoms you have to determine whether you need an in-person appointment, or whether you can be seen via video or telephone. 

You should also be asked about any symptoms associated with COVID-19, if you have a cough, fever, a loss of smell and taste then it may be assumed you have COVID-19 symptoms until proven otherwise and you should go try and access a test to find out and go into isolation.

In the first lockdown, it was acknowledged that many people avoided accessing healthcare and as a result, there were fewer people being diagnosed and accessing treatment for numerous medical problems. In the last week of March, for example, GP appointments were down 21% compared to the last week of March in 2019. This is the equivalent of approximately 1.2 million appointments.

What should I do if I think I have psoriasis?

You should make an appointment with your GP. Have a look on your practice website as some doctors have a special interest in dermatology, and you may be able to request an appointment with that doctor. My local GP surgery has Dip Dermatology after one doctor’s name in their staff directory.

Following the initial triage, request a video consultation with your doctor, if possible, because they will need to see your skin. Sometimes it’s not psoriasis and you need treatment for something else but don’t put the diagnosis off. If it is psoriasis, they will discuss the next steps.

Is my GP there for me?

You should still be able to see your GP regardless of whether it’s a national lockdown or which tier you currently reside in. You may find that your doctor is less inclined to see you if you face-to-face if you live in a higher risk area, but they still have a duty of care.

If you need to see a GP for an in-person appointment, then you have every right to expect to be given one. You may need a video or phone appointment first to qualify for the in-person appointment, make sure the reception staff understand your needs when you make the appointment. I have found that they may not always appreciate that psoriasis is much more than a skin condition. If you explain then I have found them to be much more accommodating.

Should I avoid going to my GP?

During the first lockdown, people avoided going to the doctors, I know I did. Things like routine checks, routine blood tests and medicine reviews may not seem important enough to justify booking out your doctor’s time when the NHS is dealing with the increased demand in service as a result of COVID-19 but it is important.

You definitely should be getting your routine blood tests if you’re on systemic medications, you should definitely be having a medicine review and you should definitely be getting your routine checks however, these may now be less often than before. 

The NHS are there to keep you healthy, now and in the future. You’re not being a burden if you need support from your GP or any part of the NHS. If you’re unsure, simply call your local doctors office and ask. 

How can I get my prescriptions?

You may be able to avoid the GP office entirely if you have routine prescriptions. And if your doctor is familiar with your history, they may also prescribe you some treatments over the phone. 

I know if I started to flare now I could call my GP, tell him what I wanted to manage the symptoms and I am confident he would, based on my past record with these medications and the fact I have no other health conditions. Your doctor can send the prescription directly to your local pharmacy for collection, so you don’t need to go to the surgery itself.

This may not be possible if your GP is not familiar with you and your health problems, if you have had problems with medications in the past or if you have complex health needs. In these cases, your doctor may want to speak to you or see you in person first.

The important thing to remember here is that your doctor has a duty of care. And that stands now as much as it did before.

Who else can I contact?

If you feel you cannot access the care you need then there are some fantastic organisations that can help you. I like, The Psoriasis Association who you can talk to via phone, email and WhatsApp. If you tell them where you are struggling, they can help you access the care that you need.

You should call 111 if you need access to a doctor for a non-essential telephone appointment and you cannot access a GP because it is an evening or a weekend.

If it is an emergency then do not delay in calling 999. If you are feeling suicidal or are struggling with mental health issues the following organisations may be able to help; Mind, Samaritans or talk to your doctor for further support.

In summary

The NHS is here to support your health and your GP has a duty of care. Practices remain open throughout lockdown and tiered restrictions. All patients will triaged by the reception staff over the telephone so you’re not going to waste anyone’s time if you need health support – if you need them, call them to find out what your next steps could be.

Gemma

Article developed in partnership with LEO Pharma. Information correct at time of publishing

MAT-40406 December 2020

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