After Covid, self-help should be a vital part of our health system - Susan Dalgety

​Look away now if you are squeamish. After years of acid reflux and a generally dodgy tummy, I did a home test for the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Self-testing proved easy and commonplace during CovidSelf-testing proved easy and commonplace during Covid
Self-testing proved easy and commonplace during Covid

​This is a nasty, but very common bug that usually enters your system at childhood and is a major cause of stomach ulcers and gastric cancers. Research suggests half the world’s population have the bacteria lurking in their digestive system, but most people never have any symptoms.

I bought a test kit from a well-known high street chain (Boots) after three weeks of very uncomfortable symptoms, brought on by too much rich food and drink over the festive period no doubt. The test is almost exactly the same as the one we have all used for Covid-19 except it is a tiny drop of faeces that is tested not saliva. I won’t go into details, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Ten minutes later and both red lines turned red – I was positive.

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The bacteria is easily treated with a week’s course of antibiotics, but now the challenge is on, first to get a face-to-face appointment with my GP and then to get the right treatment. I doubt if my GP – whenever I see him or her – is going to take the photo of my positive home test on my iPhone as proof positive I need a prescription. In my experience doctors are usually sceptical of people who offer a self-diagnosis.

But the pandemic surely changed all that. The NHS had to trust us – and the Chinese manufactures of the lateral flow kits – to check our own health. As a nation, we have become used to the principle of self-testing and it should now be a vital part of our health system.

The blockage arises at the next stage, convincing the primary care service that you need to see – not just talk to – a doctor. I haven’t sat in front of a GP for at least five years. My high blood pressure is monitored annually by a practice nurse, which is fine. But now that I need to see one because I have a potentially harmful, condition, it is proving very difficult. No wonder A&E departments are overwhelmed.

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