Why are the UK public avoiding their GP?

gp surgery

Over half of the UK say that Covid-19 has made them more likely to try and diagnose their own symptoms instead of consulting a healthcare professional, a YouGov study conducted on behalf of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, has found.

The new analysis, based on a survey of more that 2,000 UK residents, shows that many are still reluctant to visit their GP when symptoms of an illness or health condition appear and will instead try to manage their condition alone.

52% say that the pandemic has made them more likely to try and diagnose their own symptoms. The survey also showed that 39% are reluctant to visit their GP at this time because didn’t want to waste their GP’s time. A quarter of respondents stated that they didn’t want to visit their GP because they were worried about catching Covid-19.

Avoiding the GP surgery has serious implications for many health conditions including allergies, where the UK has some of the highest prevalence rates in the world.

Affecting over 20% of the UK population, allergy can prove fatal without an accurate diagnosis. Despite this, more than a third of those surveyed said they believed allergy to be a ‘minor health condition’. Almost half incorrectly agreed that allergy was simply a more severe type of intolerance.

When asked in which ways they would respond if they or a family member developed symptoms of an allergy, 59% said that they would search online for information and 56% would buy over the counter medication, such as antihistamines. 26% would consult a family or friend, only 10% would contact a patient charity and 8% would buy an online test.

Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK, says, “We need to take allergy seriously and stop treating allergy and allergic asthma as ‘minor’ health conditions. Attempting to manage these kinds of conditions alone, without accurate diagnosis, can be dangerous.”

In the 20 years leading up to 2012, there was a 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK. Today, a staggering 44% of British adults suffer from at least one allergy and the number continues to rise (1).

The most accurate way to discover a person’s allergy triggers, and potentially save lives, is through specific IgE testing*. Accurate testing is available through GP surgeries, yet almost two thirds (63%) stated they were not aware that this was the case. 80% of those surveyed, however, said that Covid-19 had made them aware that testing in order to track and trace diseases was important.

Warner continues, “Always speak to your doctor first and discuss options for getting a specific IgE test for what may be triggering your allergic symptoms and avoid trying to source online or unvalidated tests.”

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