Don't put off that visit to the doctor

Date published: 20 February 2018

Oldham family doctor and health campaigner Dr Zahid Chauhan has warned that postponing a visit to the surgery because you’re frightened, could have horrific consequences.

Brand new research has shown that two-thirds of British people would delay a trip to the doctors because they are fearful of receiving bad news or worried they would be given a lecture about their unhealthy lifestyles.

But Dr Chauhan insists such attitudes “belong in the past” and that health checks, attending NHS screening programmes or even just talking about worries with a medic, could prevent your chances of developing a deadly illness.

Said Dr Chauhan: “People seem to believe there is nothing we can do about serious conditions, so why bother going to the doctors?

"Yet coming to us when early symptoms present, means we can actually slow down conditions like dementia, prescribe chemotherapy to treat cancer and look at a few small lifestyle changes to manage heart conditions and COPD.

"I also believe that the root causes of many major physical conditions lie in mental health worries. Getting expert health from a professional, means we can tackle these problems before they develop, too.”

Compiled by the Patients Association, University College London and social enterprise 2020health, the study of 2,500 adults showed that middle-aged men with unhealthy lifestyles were particularly averse to seeing the doctor. This was because they didn’t want to be told off for smoking, drinking and eating a poor diet.

“With great respect to the respondents, they clearly haven’t been to the doctors for a while,” continued Dr Chauhan.

“We are not in the business of shouting at anyone and react without judgement and with great compassion to any patient in need.

"Of course we are going to point out that leading a healthier lifestyle is beneficial but we are also sympathetic enough to recognise that there are triggers that make people comfort eat, drink too much or stay at home instead of going out and exercising.”

The NHS now has a myriad of services available to those worried about their health. Well man and women clinics are organised at some surgeries, while screening for everything from breast to bowel cancer is available.

There is even a free health MOT (designed to look for the signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia) for those aged 40-74.

Such tests usually arrest concerns about health and Dr Chauhan pointed to new figures showing that 95% of smear tests for cervical cancer come back 'all clear'.

For those concerned that visiting the already busy surgery might clog up waiting rooms, Dr Chauhan said: “Many practices have longer opening hours now, including at weekends.

If you visit your GP at the first signs of trouble, we can treat you and prevent illnesses progressing to the point where they need expensive, time-consuming emergency treatment, so you are helping the NHS and saving us resource.

More importantly, you will give yourself the best chance of effective treatment and a proper recovery. Seeing a doctor won’t kill you but a fatalistic fear of illness and sticking your head in the sand will.” 

Dr Chauhan is a national health and social care campaigner and the founder of the Homeless-Friendly programme, which ensures rough sleepers and others without a permanent address, receive the very best medical care.

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