Ask Not What Your NHS Can Do For You………..(2)

Over the last two weeks this column has suggested that we can all make a difference to reducing demands on the NHS by taking more regular exercise and making other lifestyle changes – especially now as Xmas approaches.  While Citizens Advice cannot help you with regard to a healthy diet or ways in which you could introduce more exercise into your life it may be able to help if you are feeling unwell.

People react to feeling unwell differently.  While some would make an appointment to see their GP at the first sign of symptoms occurring others wait to see if they clear up of their own accord.  Most would agree that if for example, a severe or persistent headache continues, a medical opinion and treatment will be required at some point.

What if the symptoms are less obviously linked to a medical condition?  Most of us feel sad, anxious or panicky, worried, tired, frustrated and/or angry from time to time and find that these feelings pass after a while. If you continue to feel low for two weeks or longer the advice given on the NHS Choices website is that you may be suffering from depression and you should consult your GP.

Mental health issues like depression are still not recognised by some people as genuine medical conditions; and yet it has been estimated that one in four of us in the UK will experience mental health problems in any given year. If your GP diagnoses you with a mental health problem, ask for as much information as you can about the condition and the support available.

Your GP might:

  •  refer you to a community psychiatric nurse for counselling, or support at home,
  • prescribe medication like anti-depressants or tranquillisers (don’t be afraid to ask for information about these drugs, such as how they will help, how long you will have to take, them, if they have any side effects and if there is any risk of you becoming addicted to them,
  •  refer you to a specialist in a community mental health team, for example a psychiatrist, or recommend admission to hospital.

GPs sometimes recommend that patients could deal with the causes of conditions like anxiety or depression by getting help from an organisation like Citizens Advice (to deal with stress inducing debt, matrimonial and family and employment issues for example).

You are entitled to the same support regardless of whether your medical condition is mental or physical including,

(i) community care services such as home helps, day care services, meals on wheels or care in a care home from your local authority – in this case Surrey County Council; they will assess what support you need and how much you have to pay for any services provided.

(ii) hospital care; some people with mental health problems will need to go into hospital – sometimes without their consent.  The rules affecting people in hospital and their rights are complicated. To find out more, you could contact Mind, the National Association for Mental Health (see contact details below).  You should not be discharged from hospital without a full assessment of your health and social care needs.

(iii) financial help (benefits).

(iv) protection against Disability Discrimination;  colleagues who discriminate against you at work because of your mental health problem may be breaking the law.

Again Citizens Advice can help.

If you need more specific advice in connection with a mental health problem, you can also contact MIND on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 Monday to Friday between 9AM & 6PM.

Your local Citizens Advice can help with this as well as other issues to do with Healthcare or Benefits, Work, Consumer, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, or Tax issues.  You can:

  • call 0344 848 7969 to speak to an assessor or make an appointment to talk to an adviser face-to face. (calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package).
  •  visit to access our comprehensive range of information and advice,
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