Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Accident and Emergency (A&E)

When people can’t get an appointment with a GP, they can phone their usual GP surgery for out-of-hours services, or go to an NHS walk-in centre if there is one locally, where minor illnesses can be treated without an appointment. Many minor things will get better on their own, or people can wait until the GP surgery is open again. When Hannah couldn’t get an appointment with a GP and the walk-in centre had closed, she took her 11-month-old son, who was ‘covered in chicken pox’, to A&E instead because she was very worried about him.
People who have an urgent, serious problem (like a broken arm) can go straight to a hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. A&E departments offer access to medical care 24 hours a day, all year round. If anyone’s in any doubt about whether they need to go to A&E, they can call the NHS non-emergency number to get advice (insert link to ‘General Health and Medicine’ pdf).

An A&E department (also known as emergency department or casualty) deals with serious or life-threatening emergencies. These include head injuries or loss of consciousness, seizures that aren’t stopping, and broken (or fractured) bones
Kyle recalled going to A&E when he was seven and broke his arm. Aaron went when he was younger too because of football injuries. Less severe injuries can also be treated in Minor Injuries Units or Urgent Care Centres.

People can also go to A&E because of:

•    ongoing severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
•    severe bleeding that can’t be stopped
•    severe allergic reactions
•    severe burns or scalds
•    stitches
Sometimes people have severe pain and don’t know why. At the age of 13 Rowan started getting severe stomach pain. He saw a number of different GPs but it was unclear what was going on. He was advised to go to A&E if the pain got worse, where he was admitted and had tests done. Six months after Rowan first saw a GP about stomach pain, he was diagnosed as being lactose intolerant. This is when the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products.
Jalé also went to A&E because of severe and ongoing stomach pain, which meant that she couldn’t sit up. She felt that the nurse she saw in hospital listened and took her seriously, but the consultant only listened when her mum told him that Jalé’s sister had recently had ovarian cancer. A few months later, she had to have her thyroid gland removed.
Sometimes people are unsure whether go to A&E especially if they’re in a lot of pain. Vinay had lower back pain for several weeks when he was home from university over the summer holidays. He saw GPs in two different cities and suspected he had kidney stones. It was confusing knowing which GP he should see and he travelled back and forth for several months between his home and university doctors. When Vinay started having chest pain as well as kidney pain, he decided to go to A&E. Later, when the kidney pain seemed to be getting worse, he went to A&E again in the hope of having tests and a diagnosis.
Like Rowan, Ambeya was advised to go to A&E by a health professional. She saw a GP about an eye problem and was told to see an optician. The optician advised her to go to A&E. There, she waited seven hours to be seen.

Some people visit A&E because they have self-harmed. Nikki, who’d had depression and self-harmed, said she’d ‘lost count of the amount of times’ she’d gone to A&E because of self-harming (overdosing). She disliked medical staff at A&E and said she’d overheard a nurse saying that she was ‘the dramatic type’, which made her feel like ‘a waste of space’. Nikki felt that A&E could be improved by having staff who dealt specifically with mental health. Shane also took an overdose. He had bad memories of being assessed in hospital and never wanted to go through that again. Fran had overdosed on recreational drugs and been to A&E three times. Like Shane, she disliked hospitals. Shane’s experience made him determined not to go back there again.

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