Prescribed treatment, such as drugs or physiotherapy, is not always necessary. For some conditions, the most important part of a GP’s role may be to offer reassurance that a symptom is not a cause for concern.
Many minor health problems cure themselves. In long-term illness, a family doctor can provide crucial support and understanding, often based on a relationship built over years. However, in many cases drug treatment will be recommended, either on a short-term basis to relieve an acute problem (such as antibiotics for a bacterial infection), or for a longer period for a chronic condition (such as drugs for high blood pressure). Other treatments may be recommended to complement prescribed medicines; for example, physiotherapy may be prescribed in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat a muscle problem.
Sometimes surgery may be necessary to treat a condition and in most cases this involves referral to hospital, unless the surgery is very minor (such as wart removal). Sometimes, despite many investigations, a definitive cause cannot be found to explain a patient’s symptoms. In these circumstances, the GP may recommend measures that aim to relieve symptoms and to address factors that may be contributing to the problem, such as stress.