March 10, 2022 6.00 am

The health lessons GPs want you to learn after the pandemic

Get physical and mental health back on track

By Local Democracy Reporter

The demands on hospitals and doctors will rise ‘exponentially’ without a healthier population, a GP has warned.

Two years of isolation, stress and lockdowns has hit many people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Dr Satpal Shekhawat is looking at how to get people’s health back on track after the pandemic.

The North Lincolnshire CCG medical director has laid out what doctors have learnt from COVID-19, and how people can become healthier as a result.

“The demands on the healthcare system will increase exponentially if nothing changes – it could get to the place where we won’t be able to meet it,” Dr Shekhawat said.

“During the pandemic, we were forced to suspend routine work like blood pressure checks because we were fighting on other fronts.

“We have restarted those now, but there are really important things people can do to help themselves and the system.

“Learning about self-care means you can manage minor illnesses much better. For coughs, colds and other small problems, there is lots of information available without having to see your doctor.

“The NHS website, community pharmacies and local authorities have resources on how to fight these problems off.

“This will free up capacity for GPs, A&E and hospitals to help others.”

Next on Dr Shekhawat’s list of aims is reduce the number of people becoming ill in the first place.

“Prevention is vital for all ages – it means you’re less likely to become ill, and when you do need emergency treatment then the outcome will be better,” he said.

“We’ve seen over the pandemic how investing in your health makes recovery quicker.

“For an elderly person who has broken their hip, being fit and healthy could make all the difference.

“This could mean becoming more active, learning how to cook healthier or giving up smoking. The North Lincolnshire Healthy Lifestyle service can help with many of these.

“Support is available everywhere from leisure centres to college classes.”

North Lincolnshire’s new GP hub has also helped to relieve pressure on hospitals, seeing 900 patients in the first six weeks.

These were people who couldn’t get appointments in their local surgery, and may have been forced to go to A&E instead.

It has been extended until the end of June, and patients can be referred from their surgeries.

Dr Shekhawat is also keen to help patients navigate the network of phone-lines, doctors and hospitals more effectively.

“It’s important people know which service can help them, so they’re not going getting passed around from pillar to post,” he said.

“If they are waiting at A&E for hours unnecessarily, it’s not good for them or the healthcare system.

“The 111 line or the online NHS 111 service are the best places if you’re unsure where you need to be.

“They can direct you to seek urgent help at hospital or GP, or look into self-care options from your local pharmacy.”