Budgets for HIV are at a standstill. HIV clinics will have to look after more and more people with HIV, since the epidemic keeps growing in the UK, with the same pot of money.
Because of this we will have to use GPs to look after our health needs which are not strictly HIV related.
I am preparing to deliver a series o workshops on how to get the most from GPs for people with HIV and I am writing a handout with pratical ideas to help.
Here are some tips I gathered with suggestions from my colleagues at Pos UK. I would love to hear from you if you have any special suggestions on how to get the most out of your GP.
1) Know how to find your GP. Visit NHS Choices at www.nhs.co.uk and search for a GP by your postcode. Your HIV clinic may be able to help you find one. You must register with a GP in your catchment area, however within that you should have a choice of 2 or 3 GPs.
2) You can see the same GP every time. If there is a GP you feel most comfortable with in your surgery you can ask to see them. It may mean that you need to wait a bit longer.
3) Think about disclosing your HIV status to your GP. A GP is a doctor, and will be better able to look after your health if he or she knows all the facts. This includes your HIV status. If you don’t disclose there is a risk a GP can prescribe a medicine that interacts with your HIV treatments. GPs and practice staff are bound by a confidentiality agreement; this includes keeping your HIV status a secret. However, telling a GP can be a big step so talk it over with someone first, a friend, support worker, or speak to someone at Positively UK on 020 7713 0444.
4) Plan what you want to say and what you want to know before you go…and write it down.
5) Write down what your GP tells you, so that you will remember later.
6) Be prepared to talk to your GP and explain your situation, especially if it’s a GP you haven’t seen before. If a GP is to look after your health effectively, they need to know a bit about you. Don’t get annoyed if they ask questions that you’ve told a GP previously.
7) Know your CD4 count and Viral Load. You could have a note-book where you keep track of all your figures
8 ) Know the name of the medications you are taking. Not only your HIV medications, but also any other ones you may be taking for other health problems. You can also write this in a special note-book where you keep your medical information.
9) Always be ready to ask questions when you are not clear about anything, or when you are unsure.
10) If you work full-time or are in employment, find out if they open after 6pm or on Saturdays and book appointments to suit you,
11) Ask your GP what you can do to enable him/her to provide the best care for you
12) Be open with your GP about what you like or what you are not so happy about the service – and offer any solutions! If you have an opportunity to do so.
13) If you are denied a service or even registration, always ask for a concrete reason why, this will not only give you a robust explanation, but it will also help you if you need to take any further action. A GP in your catchment area cannot refuse to take you on their register. If they do you should contact your local PALS http://www.pals.nhs.uk or Positively UK 0207 7130444 or Positively UK who will help take your complaint forward.
14) If you are not happy with your current GP you can make a complaint and/or change it. If you need support to make a complaint you can do it with the support of your local PALS (Patients, Advice and Liaison, Service) http://www.pals.nhs.uk or Positively UK 0207 7130444
15) Always wear nice and clean nickers. You never know…
I will co-faciltate workshops with a GP and locations and dates are:
11th November River House, Hammersmith from 6 pm to 8 pm
22nd November Positively UK Islington from 11 am to 1 pm
30th November Positively UK Islington from 6pm to 8pm
7th December River House from 10 am to 12 pm
You can book your place by calling Pos UK 0207 7130444