Is Peppa making a pig's ear of Primary Care?

This blog post has been hanging around in my head for about a week now but as we’ve been graced with the unwanted and certainly uninvited presence of an S & D bug, then to add insult to injury our laptop finally gave up and withered away midweek (I think it caught the bug too and preferred the option of giving in gracefully) I haven’t been able to type it until now.

We all know how these things go…one child has the dreaded pasty face and for once doesn’t say they are hungry every 5 minutes, the next day it’s ‘mummy I’ve been sick in my bed’ (weirdly keeping this information to himself for reasons unknown until he’d been up for about 2 hours – like he didn’t think that was important information I would want to know as soon as he had done it!?) And before you know it you’re waging a war on the germs you imagine you can see dancing around on the toilet seat laughing at your misery.

So long story short, we try to manage the bug both the boys have ourselves – lots of fluids, plain foods, Nurofen, rest, cuddles (once the sick covered clothes have been burned, obviously) and copious amounts of The Koala Brothers (on Netflix if you haven’t yet had the pleasure; after a few episodes you find yourself talking with a very bad Australian accent, just for fun).

Leo with his new best friend

Leo with his new best friend

In the end however as Leo (10 months old) was still expelling unsavory liquids from both ends after a few days, we booked an appointment with our Doctor. At this point you might be thinking I am awfully laid back to not have taken him before (I’m afraid my reactions have become dulled now that we have 2 children – When our first, Aubrey was a baby I couldn’t sleep for about a week after we accidentally cut a nail too short and a tiny drop of blood cautiously plopped off the end of his finger, now I don’t bat an eyelid when Leo initiates fights with our cat) but this raises a very interesting question; when do we take children to see Health Specialists and when do we use common sense and keep them at home?

There was an article released a few months back, discussing a tongue in cheek paper written in the British Medical Journal about Peppa Pig and her family’s use of their Healthcare Service and how their portrayal in the cartoon has given us unrealistic expectations for real life. The paper, whilst using a comical and mocking tone, does have a serious point to make and claims that Peppa has destroyed the NHS stating Pepper Pig “raises patient expectation and encourages inappropriate use of primary care services”.

If you’re not a Peppa Pig fan (forced to take an interest so you know what the small people are talking about and why they are so obsessed with jumping in muddy puddles), Doctor Brown Bear does feature quite heavily and is quite happy to make a home visit at the drop of a hat for a pig suffering with cold symptoms, readily hands out unspecified ‘medicine’ and gives his patients his direct phone line.

I thought this claim seemed a bit far-fetched until Aubrey announced a few days ago ‘if I start being sick like Leo I’ll have to go to hospital’. It did make me wonder what his understanding is of what we do when someone is unwell.

As a family we always try to ‘self manage’ and I often seek the advice of a pharmacist rather than making a Doctor’s appointment (which is what the NHS is trying to encourage us to do). I will admit I have not followed advice given by the receptionist at our GP over the phone on more than one occasion when I was advised to take Aubrey to A & E as they didn’t have any appointments (once for a cough and once for a vigorous nosebleed) and instead popped to our local pharmacist who gave me a knowing look when I asked if I was right not to rush to A & E. But when it comes to babies it seems we always want to ‘be on the safe side’ and although we have the best intentions, we’re possibly wasting billions of time and pounds making appointments unnecessarily.

So what is the solution? If I knew the answer to that I would be a very popular person indeed and not sat at home, hiding in the playroom, trying to write this blog. But all I can say is that we should talk to our children about healthcare and teach them what we would do in different situations (why not – while they are young and have thirsty sponge brains sucking up all the knowledge we can give them) so that they have some grip on the subject of health and what happens when you feel poorly.

So what did I learn from my trip to the Doctors? Always keep a stock of Lucozade Sport, rich tea biscuits and crackers in the cupboard. If a baby’s tummy feels like playdoh he/she probably isn’t constipated. And if (stop reading here if you’re already grossed out by the S & D subject) your baby who is at an age when they touch EVERYTHING and put their hands EVERYWHERE suddenly gets a goo-ey eye the same day they started being sick… you can probably figure out the connection.

Next time (hopefully a long, long way in the distant future), when we’re 2 days into an S & D breakout and I have a panic, I’ll know what to do, and I won’t be asking DR Brown Bear to make a house call.

To read the full paper in the British Medical Journal, by Catherine Bell GP click here 

Emma Cruickshank