When you feel pain in your neck, back, shoulder, muscles or ligaments – the kind of issues we see every day in a physiotherapy clinic – what’s the first thing you do to sort it out?
If you’re like most people, you reach for the phone, call your local GP surgery and ask for an appointment. But unless you’re very lucky, the chances are that the earliest you’ll be seen is in a week’s time … and often you’ll wait much longer besides.
This week, Government figures revealed that the number of qualified GPs practising in UK surgeries, health centres and after-hours hospital clinics is in decline for the first time in half a century, leading to crippling staff shortages and longer waiting times for anything that isn’t deemed urgent.
Analysts reckon the life of a GP is now so stressful that young, newly-qualified medical students are choosing to avoid general practice in favour of being rewarded for their high-pressure working environment with the better pay and pension conditions that come with specialist practice.
At the other end of the scale, a tightening of NHS pension belts means GPs coming toward the end of their careers have no incentive to stay in a high-pressure job when there is no material gain to be had from doing so.
And what that means is that although more than 3,000 new GPs are coming into practice each year, that number is dwarfed by those leaving or choosing not to join.
For you and me, what that net reduction means is that if you’re suffering with musculoskeletal pain of some description, you’re going to have to live with that discomfort for quite a long period – relatively speaking – before you get anywhere near your doctor.
What’s more, for many people the end result of their visit to the GP when it does come around is a prescription for anti-inflammatory tablets (that will likely actually only mask the problem, rather than cure it) with an instruction to come back if things don’t improve.
The NHS believes physiotherapists can be one avenue to relieve the pressure on the GP system by seeing patients who present with musculoskeletal and other painful conditions.
We certainly think that’s true, too – but regardless of the shortage in GP numbers forcing the NHS to consider other options for treating patients who might otherwise visit their doctor, we also believe more people would be out of pain faster if they chose to go and see a physio to begin with and skipped the GP appointment.
Private care of any kind comes at a cost, but an initial consultation should in most cases be affordable and could arm you with the kind of information you need to then persuade your GP to refer you to an NHS physiotherapy service.
If you have private medical insurance, then opting for an initial appointment with a specialist physiotherapy clinic where your insurance provider allows makes all kinds of sense.
GPs are mostly wonderful people whose sole aim is to make you well again. But they also feel honour-bound to exhaust the kinds of options they’re used to, which means people often suffer more than they should. Really good doctors will usually refer when they don’t have certainty over a diagnosis.
So, if you’re suffering with persistent pain and you’re thinking of ringing your GP for an appointment, why not lessen the burden on them and give yourself a quicker route to treatment by contacting us instead.
Our fantastic team is located within easy reach of the West End in warm and welcoming treatment rooms on Harley Street – and we’d love to help you.
If you’d like to speak to us about physiotherapy for pain management or any other condition – or if you’d just like some advice about other steps you can take to look after yourself – please get in touch.