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Friday 25th May 2018

GPs should not dismiss 'worried well'

23rd March 2010

Writing in The Mail Online Dr Prit Buttar, chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee, explains why doctors should never dismiss the ‘Worried Well’.


He was a classic ‘worried well’ patient, wondering why he needed to come into my surgery with a slight cough.

But as I questioned the man, alarm bells rang and I referred him straight to hospital where two weeks later he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

If he had taken that cough to the pharmacists, as some health professionals from the Self-Care Campaign are now proposing as an appeal for the Worried Well to leave their GPs alone, he may just have been given some linctus.

While they claim 51.4 million consultations are wasted on minor complaints every year, these consultations are important.

I see plenty of patients for “simple, straightforward, trivial-sounding complaints” that could be handled differently via a nurse practitioner or pharmacist but they are part of a strong doctor-patient relationship formed over many years.

For these vulnerable patients, their GP is a vital point of contact as well as a watchful eye, a safe haven.

But will sending “Worried Well” patients to pharmacists save money?

GPs will still be at their desks and if a patient keeps coming back with small complaints, it is my job to say “enough.” I have my experience and a “sixth sense” for when a complaint is still trivial, or not.

This is about the continuity the Self-Care Campaign would have us give up.

Encouraging people to go to their pharmacies when they don’t feel well, instead of their GPs, will simply feed the anxieties of the Worried Well.


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