HEALTHWATCH – NEW COLUMN

We are pleased to introduce our new column Healthwatch with Dr Brighton Chireka.

Please send your enquiries him at [email protected]

BY DR B CHIREKA

Health systems throughout the world are different. In Zimbabwe you do not have to register with one doctor.

You can consult as many family doctors as you want, as long as you can afford it. Everyone living in the UK has a right and must register with a general practitioner (GP). This right is based on residency and not nationality or payment of taxes. It goes without saying that all Zimbabweans in the UK should register with a GP as soon as possible. so that they can get medical care if they need it. GPs are the first port of call for a patient seeking the help of the National Health Service (NHS) medical professionals. The NHS provides health care in the UK and is funded by taxation. Any person living in the UK lawfully and on a settled basis is entitled to free primary medical services. I will address fully the issue of who qualifies for free NHS treatment in the next article.

If one wants to register with a GP he or she has to look at local doctors because GP practices operate on a geographical basis. You are normally accepted if you live close by. To identify practices in your area, contact NHS Direct (the confidential 24-hour advice and health information service) on 08454647, or you can get details of local GPs and dentists on the NHS website www.nhs.uk by entering your town or postcode. If there are several practices in your area, ring up and ask if they are accepting new patients. There is a maximum number of patients allowed on each practice list. If a practice is enrolling new patients, call in to collect a copy of the practice leaflet. This will name the GPs, indicate surgery hours, indicate whether an appointment system operates, explain arrangements for getting advice over the phone, for collecting repeat prescriptions, for out of hours provision and requesting home visits. It could also include details on special clinics offered for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

A visit to the practice will allow you to see the facilities and discover how easy it is to park nearby or get there by public transport. You can also discuss any specific needs you may have. Before being accepted as a new patient or as part of the registration process, you will be offered a basic health check, usually with the practice nurse. If you move away from the area covered by your GP, you will need to find another doctor. It is not necessary to tell your GP that you wish to change. Once a new GP has agreed to accept you, the practice will contact your previous GP for your medical records. If you have difficulties finding a practice to accept you, contact NHS Direct, as they have a responsibility to assign you to a GP if you are unable to find one yourself. The advice given in this column is general and should not be used as a substitute for your GP.

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