Quick, doctor! I’ve broken a fingernail

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WHEN are you sick enough to see a doctor and when are you so sick you should seek emergency treatment at a hospital casualty unit?

I started to ponder this when told of a woman who rushed to a local casualty department demanding treatment because of a botched job on her false nails. And another woman dashed to A&E because of a hair dye disaster.

In another incident, a pushy mum sought emergency treatment for her son when he was struck with diarrhoea. And in yet another, a man rushed his sick dog to A&E hoping doctors would take a look at the poorly pet.

The incidents are revealed in a series of NHS videos highlighting some of the most inappropriate reasons for patients attending A&E in the south east.

Hmmm. Perhaps the above examples are a little extreme, but in day-to-day sickness just how are we mere mortals supposed to know if we’re ill enough to darken a doctor’s door? I mean just look at what happened to poor Lavinia in Downton Abbey. One minute she was on the mend from Spanish flu and discussing her non-marriage to Mr Crawley when Whoosh! She took a turn for the worse and that was it.

In my 20s I suffered a bout of what I later realised was a serious case of hypochondria brought on by reading too many Dear Doctor pages in women’s mags.

I managed to cure myself on about the fifth visit in as many weeks when my doctor - in a light-hearted way it has to be said - on seeing me enter the surgery yet again - said: “OK, what have you got this week?”

“Lupus,” I replied knowledgeably. “You realise that’s incurable,” he said. “I KNOW!” I replied with my newly-found medical magazine diploma.

But the thing is I think I still err on the side of Better Safe Than Sorry. Although many don’t. Scientists have discovered that stoically coping with pain or other symptoms and deciding we don’t want to bother the doctor is costing lives, especially among the elderly.

They say that more than a third of us who have unidentified symptoms that could indicate Something Serious delay going to our GP in case we waste the doctor’s time.

Contrast that with the message from our local NHS in the south who ask us to think twice about putting pressure on already-busy A&E and 999 teams. How are we supposed to know what to do?

NHS officials say that in the last 12 months more than 700,000 people went to A&E departments in the South of England when they could have been treated and advised by their local pharmacist or GP, or could have looked after themselves at home.

Well, I’m with Spike Milligan on this. When asked what he wanted on his tombstone, Spike replied: “I told you I was ill.”