Getting the best from your GP – Part 2
Medication and more
6 Know your meds
Understand what medication you have been prescribed. Know their names and how they work. Also be aware of both the generic (scientific) and proprietary (Pharmaceutical or trade) names.
There are lots of online resources. I find this one the best. You can also try this NHS site which gives more of an overall view.
By understanding what your medication does, you are also able to be alert to side effects. But beware – these can sound very scary. Also, not everyone suffers from these side effects and you certainly won’t get all of them. If you are someone who is aware that you may be easily influenced, give the information leaflet to a close friend or family member who can check side effects for you if you are worried.
7 Always report drug side effects
If you are having side effects from your medication, note them down. Use your notes when you go back to see your GP. If you feel you are getting more side effects than benefits from a medication – don’t be afraid to ask if you can try something different.
The same medication can work differently on different people. Just because someone you know had side effects from a medication doesn’t mean you will too.
8 Don’t be afraid to say no!
If you really cannot cope with the side effects from a medication, it is your right to say if you no longer want to take that medication. You should always discuss this with your GP first. But ultimately, it’s your body and your choice.
One of the most common drugs prescribed in the UK are statins. They are very cheap, and are given to patients who have raised cholesterol. One million people were prescribed statins in 2011.
But thousands of people also suffer side effects from statins. The most common of these side effects are muscle pain and cramps. There is also a risk that statins can increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Statins are often prescribed to reduce a risk of heart attacks caused by high cholesterol. Opinion on statins is divided, even between doctors themselves.
My own, non-statistical, view talking to friends and family members who have taken statins, is that the side effects some people experience are considerably worse than the risk involved by not taking statins.
That is my personal choice. If you need to make a decision about statins, or any other medication please discuss your options with your GP first.
9 Check about supplements
Many of us now take vitamin and other supplements to improve our health. But did you know they can interact with prescribed medication?
Check out what you are taking or considering buying with your GP. The same advice applies if you are seeing a hospital consultant. Please also tell the doctors or nurses if you are going to have investigations or surgery.
10 Not all GPs or practices are good
Sometimes things go wrong. Try and resolve you concerns with the GP themselves. If your concern is about one of the reception staff, speak to the practice manager. Your complaint may help them deal with an ongoing issue.
Where I previously lived in West London, there was an arrangement for my the nearest Chemist to pick up scripts from my GP’s surgery at least once a day. Usually this system worked well. I would order my meds on line and the script would be at the Chemist two days later. The following day I could have my meds delivered.
However on several occasions prescriptions went missing or couldn’t be found. If I phoned to check what happening there was one particular receptionist who used to get very angry and defensive. On two separate occasions she accused me of lying about what the Chemist had said to me.
The first time I just thought she was having a bad day. But on the second occasion I spoke to the Practice Manager. It turned out there were some ongoing issues with this particular staff member. Not only was the prescription collection system improved but the incident was used to try and help the Receptionist’s skills training. I stayed with that practice till I moved
Learn about the care other GP practices give disabled people. If you find you have chosen the wrong GP – find a better one. Poor care is not acceptable and you have a right to change your GP.