Do I need antibiotics?

Over 1.2 million people visit their GP with sore throat symptoms a year and six out of ten are prescribed antibiotics – yet research suggests that just one in ten actually had an infection caused by bacteria and actually needed them! Here’s a guide to help you work out if you need them from NHS GP Dr Golda Parker

Recently, NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, announced that we should reconsider taking a trip to the GP for a sore throat, in a bid to cut down NHS expenses and relieve pressure of doctors.

Instead, he urges that we head straight to the pharmacist for an on the spot swab test that could save the NHS up to four million pounds a year.

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How do we know when to visit the GP

The Sore Throat Test and Treat initative will be rolled out across the country over the next year and is designed to help cut 800,000 GP consultations and to stop antibiotic resistance.

Moreover, every year, over 1.2 million people visit their GP with sore throat symptoms and six out of ten  are prescribed antibiotics when just one in ten actually had an infection caused by bacteria and actually needed them.

Healthista asked Dr Golda Parker, a leading NHS GP practising across the north west of England the question that is on everyone’s minds – how do we know when to go to the GP and what for and do we actually need those antibiotic?

When should we go to the pharmacist? 

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You should visit your chemist for simple things like a cough

‘It’s worthwhile visiting the pharmacist for simple things such as coughs and colds that have only been ongoing for a few days,’ she explains.

‘Most simple upper respiratory tract infections and sore throats will clear on their own and your pharmacist can be really helpful in advising you of some simple measures to help ease symptoms and exactly when you should see your doctor.’

Visit the pharmacist for simple things such as coughs and colds that have only been ongoing for a few days

When should we go to the GP?

As you would expect, Golda explains that if symptoms are getting worse rather than better and if they have been ongoing for a week or more, then it’s time to book in with your GP.

‘It’s worthwhile visiting your GP surgery to make sure that there’s nothing else going on and to make sure that the infection is viral rather than bacterial,’ she said.

Do I need antibiotics?

‘It’s bacterial infections that need antibiotics and the doctor will need to take a thorough history and examine you in order to determine what type of infection you are suffering from.’

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Using antibiotics when not needed can make you antibiotic resistant

She explains that viral infections like a common cold, the flu and chickenpox won’t benefit from antibiotics.

‘We try to only use antibiotics when we need to in order to prevent resistance.’

What NOT to hassle your doctor about… 

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As much as we try not to believe that people make doctor’s appointments for reasons totally unrelated to health, it does happen and Golda has pretty much seen it all.

‘We get lots of non medical issues that shouldn’t be a NHS appointment, for example, requests for cosmetic opinions and dermal fillers that have gone wrong.’

But these types of queries are nothing in comparison to others, as Golda explains that she has been visited twice solely for the opinion on a pet dog.

‘A lady also came in to see me to print off her flight tickets – there were no other reasons for these appointments,’ tells Golda.

A lady also came in to see me to print off her flight tickets

‘But in this case, social isolation was highlighted and I was able to get her in contact with luncheon clubs.’

Golda explains that this is an extreme but she often sees lots of things that could be dealt with by the pharmacist.

‘The real problem is those people who say they will be fine. It’s those who don’t come to the doctors that are usually the ones who should be making an appointment, so it really is a difficult call.’

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