With the increased availability of lateral flow tests and more than 50 per cent of the population having received at least one dose of vaccine, you might be forgiven for thinking PCR testing for COVID is now a thing of the past.

However, much as we would all like to think that the end is in sight, there are still some very valid reasons why widespread PCR testing will be necessary for a while yet:

1. Confirming new cases

Whilst lateral flow tests are a useful tool – particularly for picking up asymptomatic cases – they are not as reliable as PCR tests, so if you have symptoms of COVID, including:

  • a new, continuous cough
  • fever
  • loss of taste and/or smell

Then you should seek a PCR test immediately. In fact, if you have tested positive on a lateral flow test, you should also have a PCR test to confirm the result.

This will make certain that you get the right treatment, should treatment be necessary, as well as ensuring that government figures for new cases are accurate.

2. Slowing the spread

If your own health concerns aren’t enough to sway you towards having a PCR test, consider the wider benefits: the greater the number of undiagnosed cases in the community, the quicker the virus will spread.

So for every COVID case that is confirmed and in isolation, think of the number of additional cases that can be avoided. It is no exaggeration to say that by having a PCR test you could be saving someone’s life.

3. Assessing our progress

“Do we want to know how well vaccines are working? We’re going to have to test,” said David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“How are we going to know whether the variants are more contagious? We’re going to have to test.
“How are we going to know if the vaccines are effectively controlling the variants? We’re going to have to test.”

As a nation, we have been through a lot over the past year, and all in the name of conquering this virus. Without accurate, up-to-date information about the number of cases, how do we know if our efforts are working?

Preventing the next pandemic

With new variants emerging all the time, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we will ever be completely free from COVID. And that means we’re going to have to learn to live with it. In order to do that, however, we need to keep a close eye on its progression and find out:

  • How well are new variants responding to the vaccine?
  • How quickly does each variant spread?
  • Are some variants more deadly than others?

“It becomes less about trying to interrupt the transmission of the disease and more about understanding, where is the virus?” says Dr Jennifer Nuzzo, head of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security. “What are we missing? And, you know, what could be coming down the road?”

So if we want life to return to some form of normality and stay there, PCR testing looks like it is here to stay.

The Mayfair GP aims to make the PCR test process as convenient as possible and can offer a mobile service, so we can come to you to do the test. We courier the test to the lab, so we can get the result to you as quickly as possible.

We also offer testing for recent arrivals to the UK – both the mandatory day 2 and 8 testing, and the 5-day test to release scheme.

To book a PCR test, please get in touch via email at info@themayfairgp.com or call us on 07568 369 455.

At The Mayfair GP, we believe in the positive effects of Lifestyle Medicine – looking after your body in a holistic way to help promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent the onset of disease.

Alongside a healthy, balanced diet, exercise is hugely important not just to help our physical health, but also to promote mental and emotional wellbeing. Walking, running and sports like tennis are all great ways to increase your heart rate and get the endorphins flowing.

For a more gentle activity that also has many health benefits, yoga can be enjoyed by young and old, on its own, or as an adjunct to other activities.

Health benefits of yoga

Yoga presents the perfect full body, mind and spirit workout, allowing you to focus on your breathing and practise mindfulness whilst also stretching the muscles of the body, promoting suppleness and strength.

Among the many health benefits of yoga, studies have shown it could help to:

  • Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, by increasing the body’s production of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory and reducing cholesterol
  • Improve your quality of life, by reducing depression, anxiety and stress and promoting calm
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Promote good sleep – all exercise will help you sleep, but yoga is particularly good at soothing both body and mind
  • Help improve breathing control

Yoga for a healthier lifestyle

At The Mayfair GP we like to offer our patients a chance to improve their overall health, and we work closely with local yoga provider, Jo Goff, to do that. Jo is a qualified Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher and teaches all ages and abilities.

Jo says:

I was working in the world of fashion PR and living an intense and unsustainable lifestyle when I found yoga. Through persistence of going to regular classes, I began to learn the tools of how to look internally and slow my life down. I was able to see the amazing value and benefits that yoga offered.

Yoga is a lifestyle choice and comprises meditation, pranayama (breathe control), nutrition, and asanas (postures) which lead us on a path of conscious living. A regular yoga practice inspires a person to become more aware of their choices. It helps them lead a more fulfilling life and encourages them to become more content with what they have.

“Yoga practice really helped in my recovery..”

Jo continues:

Yoga has been fundamental in keeping me grounded through the good and slightly tougher times in life. I have had various major physical surgical procedures, and found my years of yoga practice really helped in my recovery. Especially having learnt how to work with the breath, and my body was in a strong and healthy place which helped with the healing. I have also learnt how to modify my yoga practice through fertility treatment, pregnancy. Over the years I have taught some amazing clients from beginners through to those more experienced of all ages.

Once you begin yoga, you will gain an understanding of your own physical and mental awareness. You can then deepen your practice, initially with the guidance of a teacher. You can then work on your own once you have learnt the skills.

I look forward to seeing you soon on the mat!

Find out more about Jo Goff’s one-to-one yoga classes and group sessions in north London by visiting www.jogoffyoga.com.

If you would like to find out more about Lifestyle Medicine and how we can help you to lead a healthier lifestyle, please contact us at The Mayfair GP by emailing: info@themayfairgp.com .

Dementia Action Week will take place this year on 17-23 May 2021. At The Mayfair GP, we are committed to providing dementia support to those suffering with the illness, as well as their families, in whatever way we can. This past year has certainly been tough on those living with dementia.

What is dementia?

The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving and language.

Dementia can be caused when the brain is damaged by a disease, such as Alzheimers, but this is not the only cause.

The most common causes of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease – a physical condition caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain. This damages the brain cells’ ability to transmit messages and eventually leads to deterioration.
  • Vascular dementia – this is caused by problems with blood supply to the brain, often due to stroke damage.
  • Frontotemporal dementia – this tends to affect younger people, with the average age range being 45 to 65. This form of dementia affects the frontal and temporal lobes. It causes problems with social functioning, decision making, problem solving, speech, comprehension and language. It is a progressive condition that worsens over time.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies – another progressive condition, dementia with Lewy bodies affects movement and motor control. It may cause tremors, falls, etc.

Why has this year been so bad for dementia?

For those suffering with dementia, regular contact with others, and particularly with loved ones, can help them to keep on top of their symptoms. Visits from family members can give a day structure and help to retain memories of faces and events.

With care homes closed to visitors and strict lockdowns meaning that even those still living at home could receive minimal visits, that lifeline has been removed for many.

Research by the Alzheimer’s Society has shown that the past year has had a huge impact on those suffering with dementia. More than four in five (82%) people with dementia have experienced a deterioration in their symptoms. 50% reported increased memory loss. A third of people said they were having increased difficulty in speaking and understanding others. 28% had experienced a loss in the ability to perform basic tasks, such as dressing themselves.

We offer dementia support

As family members are allowed to visit loved ones again, the shock of their deteriorated state can be upsetting. Little can prepare you for the reality of a parent who no longer recognises you.

It can be equally hard to see family members who this time last year seemed fit and well. But now they might be struggling as their routine and contact with the outside world has been disrupted for so long.

At The Mayfair GP, we specialise in elderly care, and are able to diagnose, treat and manage illnesses like dementia. We can support patients with routine and home visits, but we can also help to support the whole family. Get in touch by calling 07568 369 455‬ or email info@themayfairgp.com .

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, and here at The Mayfair GP that’s a topic that is close to our hearts. Untreated perinatal mental illness is one of the leading causes of maternal death during pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth, so it is vitally important that healthcare workers are on the lookout for any warning signs.

Perinatal depression

Becoming a mother, especially for the first time, can be a daunting prospect, and the actuality is life changing. It is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed at times, both during pregnancy and in the weeks and months after birth. Particularly when you factor in the hormonal surges your body is experiencing.

However research suggests that, for one in ten mothers, this feeling isn’t limited to a few weepy moments. It can become a constant, ongoing depression.

Symptoms of perinatal depression include:

  • Feeling low or anxious
  • Struggling to sleep, even when your baby is asleep
  • Feeling like you can’t look after the baby
  • Feeling like life is not worth living
  • Difficulty in enjoying the good times

Postpartum psychosis

There is a condition rarer than postnatal depression – called postpartum psychosis . It affects around one in every 1000 women who give birth in the UK. Postpartum psychosis is a severe medical illness that constitutes a psychiatric emergency. If you think you, or someone you know, may be suffering from postpartum psychosis, you should seek help immediately.

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include:

  • Depression
  • Mania – very high mood and energy
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Whilst postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness that requires immediate medical attention, it should be noted that most women make a full recovery.

Dads can struggle too

Although perinatal mental health problems for mothers are a huge concern, it’s not just women who can find the adjustment to parenthood difficult.

According to Mark Williams, founder of Fathers Reaching Out – a campaign dedicated to paternal mental health – at least one in ten fathers suffer from postnatal depression. And he estimates the actual figure to be higher, as men tend to hide their feelings.

Williams stresses the importance of considering paternal mental health too. Parenthood can have far reaching effects for the father’s wellbeing. The rate of suicide among men increases between the ages of 30 and 44, and this increases when they enter into fatherhood. And a father’s mental health can affect the wellbeing of the mother and baby:

  • A father who is depressed or anxious is less likely to bond with the baby
  • Men have a stronger tendency than women to use negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs, and can become violent as a result
  • Fathers are the main source of support for mother and child during the postnatal period

What to do if you or someone you know is struggling

Here at The Mayfair GP, we are committed to supporting perinatal mental health. We offer a range of services for parents, including the family health clinic, health screenings and a comprehensive paediatric care service.

If you have concerns about yourself or a member of your family, please give us a call on 07568 369 455 to make a booking‬.

Monday 8 March was a day many of us had been waiting for, when the school gates finally opened again. But while for many families the return to school was a welcome relief, for some the effects of Lockdown have been far reaching, and the return to some sort of normality might be a long road. Here we look at things you can do as a parent, if you are concerned about children or your family’s mental health.

Managing the change

Especially within the wider context of a global pandemic, children may have felt very safe spending so much time at home over the past few months. So the return to school may be a daunting experience.

Separation anxiety can be a real problem for some children, particularly after so long spent within constant earshot of a parent. Add to the mix a sudden influx of ‘other people’, when for months they have been told to keep their distance. It’s no wonder that particularly younger children might be feeling anxious.

There are some things that you can do as a parent to ease the transition:

  • Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling – try not to dismiss any nerves they might have about going to school. It might well be that you’re feeling anxious too, in which case tell them that and talk about things you can do together to help you feel more comfortable.
  • Talk them through the months ahead – the return to school is the first in a number of changes that will come over the next few months, so why not have a sit down with them, look at the calendar and show them what changes will be happening then. Talking about the really good things to come, like visits to the grandparents and birthday parties, can make these current changes feel more manageable.
  • Tell them what you’ll be doing while they’re at school – if they are feeling uncomfortable about being separated from you, it may help them to know what you’ll be doing that day, and remind them that being able to get your work or the chores done while they’re at school means you can spend more quality time with them when they get home

Regression

Some parents have noticed that their children seem to have regressed in the pandemic. Toilet-trained toddlers may suddenly be wetting the bed. Teenagers might throw tantrums, the likes of which you haven’t seen since their early years.

While this might seem alarming, it is really just your child’s way of expressing emotions that they might not know how to convey verbally. It is a cry for help, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Try to take this as an opportunity to talk to them about how they are feeling.

Teenagers can be encouraged to express themselves in other ways. Through art, perhaps? Or they can be taught to self-regulate through breathing exercises or by going for a walk or a run.

For younger children, they may just need that bit of extra attention. This might be hard to hear when as a parent you feel like you don’t have much left to give!

What to do if you feel like your child isn’t coping

Our children have been through a lot in the past year, and some of them will have found it easier to deal with than others. If you think your child is struggling, the first thing to remember is it isn’t your fault.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything but your child still seems withdrawn or anxious, it might be time to ask for outside help. Here at The Mayfair GP we offer a private specialist paediatric care service, and we can provide a safe space for you and your child to talk about how you and they are feeling.

We can also offer mental health screening, should you feel it is necessary. While this might seem like a scary option, it is vital to remember that mental health is just like physical health. Sometimes we have dips, but early and effective treatment can get us back on track.

Lockdown has been a tough time for many, and it is important that we don’t underestimate the toll it has taken on our family’s mental health, or that of our children.

For more information, or to book a consultation, please contact us.

As schools have gone back and a gradual return to the workplace is imminent, more and more people are conducting lateral flow Covid tests on a regular basis. And they can do this from the comfort of their own home.

So now that we are able to test ourselves, has the clinician-led PCR test become redundant? Why would we still make the journey to a testing centre if we could carry out a test ourselves and get the results in half an hour?

More sensitive tests

While the lateral flow tests are quick and convenient, they simply aren’t as sensitive as the PCR tests. They can be great for picking up asymptomatic cases, and stopping the spread that way. But if you’ve got Covid symptoms, even if your lateral flow test gives a negative result, you should have a PCR test just to make sure.

Confirmation of a positive result

Similarly, if your lateral flow test result comes back positive, whether you are symptomatic or not, you should seek confirmation through a PCR test.

Although not common, there have been cases of lateral flow tests producing a ‘false positive’ result. This is a particular risk when the test is carried out at home, rather than under supervision at school or in the workplace.

If a positive lateral flow test result is followed by a negative PCR result, this prevents the need for ten days’ isolation. So a confirmatory test is definitely worthwhile.

If, however, your PCR test result comes back positive, you and your household will need to quarantine for ten days. But you will be exempt from having to carry out anymore tests for the next 90 days – unless you develop new Covid symptoms in that time.

Making a PCR test convenient

There’s no doubt that the ability to perform the test in your own home makes lateral flow testing a very attractive option. And regular lateral flow tests will help to control the spread of the virus. The test is great at picking up on cases with the highest viral load, which are thought to be the most contagious.

But if you are symptomatic, or if your lateral flow result comes back positive, you will need to undergo a confirmatory PCR test. This can seem very unappealing. If you are feeling unwell, the last thing you want is to have to go out to a test centre and wait in line.

The Mayfair GP aims to make the PCR test process as convenient as possible. We offer a mobile service, so we can come to you to conduct the test, and then courier it to the lab in order to get the results through quickly.

We also offer testing for recent arrivals to the UK – both the mandatory day 2 and 8 testing, and the 5-day test to release scheme.

For more information or to book a PCR test at your convenience, please contact us via email at info@themayfairgp.com.

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, and it’s a subject that’s close to our hearts here at The Mayfair GP. If caught early, bowel cancer is very treatable. However, the early symptoms are often confused with other things or are embarrassing to talk about. This can cause a delay in getting diagnosed until much later.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Most of the symptoms of bowel cancer are very common, and most people who have these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. But if you are suffering from any of the following, it is important to ask your GP for bowel cancer screening, just to rule it out:

  • A sudden and ongoing change in bowel habits
  • Bleeding from the bottom, or blood in your faeces
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • A pain or lump in your abdomen

Bowel health screening

This year, the advice on bowel cancer screening in England has changed. Previously it was recommended that everyone over 60 should be screened every two years. But from April 2021, NHS England recommends that screening start from age 50.

At The Mayfair GP we can offer health screening for bowel cancer whatever your age. The first step is always a comprehensive consultation about your medical and family history and lifestyle. We can organise further tests and investigations to provide us with all the information we need before we advise you on treatment options. We work closely with the colorectal team and can offer same week appointments with specialists as needed.

How to avoid bowel cancer

As with all cancers, sometimes bowel cancer does just strike at random, and it certainly isn’t your fault if that happens to you. But there are things you can do to reduce your chances:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet containing plenty of fibre
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Keep yourself physically active
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking – around 6% of bowel cancer cases are linked to alcohol abuse and 7% to smoking

The great news is that all of these steps will help you to reduce your risk not only of bowel cancer, but of many other cancers and diseases. They will also help you to sleep better, feel less stressed and generally be fitter and healthier.

At The Mayfair GP, we specialise in lifestyle medicine, which means we like to look at ways you can change your lifestyle to provide health benefits and prevent illness occurring, rather than treating it after the event.

So if you’re interested in finding out more about how you can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer, or would simply like to talk in confidence about any concerns you may have, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on fertility treatment around the world. In the UK, NHS hospitals stopped offering any non-urgent treatment between March and May last year. Even when fertility treatment did become available again services were vastly reduced to allow for social distancing.

Of course, patient safety is paramount, and particularly in hospitals that are treating a lot of Covid patients. But many couples who had hoped to conceiving a baby were denied the opportunity to give it their best shot.

Over 40s disproportionately affected

As any woman who has had problems conceiving will be only too aware, female fertility begins to drop off from 40 onwards.

So it seems particularly unfair that women over the age of 40 have been worst affected by the drop in fertility treatment over the past year. In fact, researchers from the University of Aberdeen have released the results of a study they conducted into this issue. They are now urging providers to prioritise the over-40s once normal fertility services resume.

The study looked at over 10,000 women who have undergone IVF in the past, and the impact of a delay in treatment. While the delay affected every age group, the older the woman was, the greater the likely impact of the delay.

The biggest impact was on women aged 40+, who were found to experience an 11.8% reduction in live births after a delay of six months. There was a 22.4% reduction if the delay went on for a year.

How can women improve their chances?

Whilst the fact that older women suffer more from the delay does seem unfair, it also stands to reason. If your fertility decreases as you get older, any delay in treatment is going to result in your fertility having reduced further once treatment happens.

Unfortunately, the only real solution is to seek treatment sooner. The researchers have made an impassioned plea to the NHS to prioritise older women when normal service is resumed.

Here at The Mayfair GP, we can offer referrals to private fertility services, who are able to offer treatment at this time.

We understand that considering private fertility treatment can be daunting, particularly in terms of the costs involved. So our doctors are on hand to talk through all the options with you, including lifestyle choices. We can help advise on the best way forward in order to maximise your chances of conceiving a baby. For more information, please contact us.

Whether you’re a professional athlete, a Sunday morning jogger or somewhere in between, being forced to stop exercising for a prolonged period can be demoralising. Any kind of illness can knock your fitness regime off course, but contracting a respiratory disease like Covid-19 can mean several weeks of inactivity.

One of the first questions many recovered Covid patients have is ‘how long do I have to wait before I can exercise after Covid’? Luckily, the British Medical Association (BMA) has issued some guidance for doctors on how to advise their patients.

So if you’re desperate to return to your morning run, there are a few simple rules to help you decide when’s a good time.

1. Check your symptoms

The BMA recommends that patients should be symptom free for at least seven days before attempting any form of physical exercise after Covid. As symptoms are quite wide ranging, you may need to use your own discretion, or speak to us, to be sure.

Common Covid symptoms include:

  • A persistent cough
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • A high temperature

If you are still experiencing any of these symptoms, even mildly, now is not the time to up your physical activity.

If you had severe Covid, it is also a good idea to check in with us before hitting the home gym.

2. Take it slowly at first

You might have been able to hit 10K in under an hour pre Covid, but it’s not a great plan to attempt that on your first run after recovery. In fact, the BMA recommends at least two weeks of minimal exertion to begin with.

The very first step, before you even get your running shoes on, is to practice some breathing, strength and balance exercises at home. Try and do this for seven days before you think about taking the next step.

If that has gone well, you may be ready to take the next step and leave the house. Don’t just head off at a sprint though. Even if you consider yourself a cut above the couch to 5K plan, that’s the kind of pace you want to be looking at for the first couple of weeks after getting over Covid.

In fact, the guidance recommends that you just aim for a light to moderate walk for the first week. You’ll be surprised how much even that can take it out of you when you’ve been laid up in bed for a while.

After a week of walking, now is the time to consider a bit of interval training. Again, if you can keep this up for a week, this will give your body time to adjust. At this point, you should be able to start building up the intensity, with the aim of returning to your pre-Covid fitness level.

3. Monitor yourself closely

Keep a close eye on your body and how it is responding to the exercise. It’s normal to feel tired and achy after exerting yourself, but if you’re feeling exhausted or struggling to breathe at any point, then take a break for a few days.

The main take away point we would advise is to ‘listen to your body’.

If you do have any concerns about your body’s response to a return to physical activity, it might be sensible to contact us, for a check-up, to ensure that your recovery is developing as it should.

If you have any concerns about returning to exercise after Covid, please don’t hesitate to contact us at The Mayfair GP by emailing info@themayfairgp.com or call us on 07568 369455.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had an enormous impact on mental health the world over. Whether you’re concerned about contracting the virus, feeling isolated from family and friends during lockdown, or suffering overwhelm from juggling childcare, household chores and work, none of us have been feeling our brightest this past year.

Now the kids are back at school and we’re being allowed a little more leeway in terms of socialising. But meeting a friend outside for a socially distanced coffee, cannot be compared with the day-to-day interactions many of us may prefer in a busy office. Can the small talk, the joking and laughing really be replicated on a Zoom video call? It’s becoming apparent that working from home could be taking its toll.

Blurring the lines between work and home

Of course, home workers have always known it isn’t the dream situation it’s made out to be, but when the situation is forced upon you, the impact can be pretty tough.

When you’re working at your kitchen table, with the breakfast things pushed hastily to one side while you have a zoom meeting with your boss, you lose all sense of a boundary between your home and working life.

Some people may find they are easily able to compartmentalise, and ignore the household tasks piling up around them while they focus on work. But for many of us, the sight of a sink full of dirty dishes, or a mound of washing waiting to be sorted can be an unwelcome distraction.

Sleepless nights

And it’s not just that home life is impinging on our ability to do our job. There’s no definite end of the working day. No commute to allow us to shift our focus. It’s very easy to continue working during what should be our hours of relaxation.

The result is that we feel like we’re not managing to do anything to the best of our abilities. We’re distracted by household problems when we ought to be working, and checking our emails when we would normally be spending time with our family.

Many of us are not getting as much exercise as we used to. Even if your job is pretty sedentary, you tend to rack up a fair few steps just getting to the office, or walking into a meeting room. When everything is conducted from your home office and you don’t even have to walk outside to get in your car, you can find you are barely moving at all from morning to night.

And all of this has an impact on our sleep. When you haven’t had much fresh air or exercise and you’re feeling a bit anxious, you struggle to sleep. Then a lack of sleep can make you more lethargic and more anxious, and so the cycle continues.

How can you break the cycle?

Here at The Mayfair GP, we specialise in lifestyle medicine, which looks at what we can do in our daily lives to help us become fitter and healthier, both mentally and physically.

We believe there are a number of things you can do to reduce the impact of working from home on your daily life:

  • Create physical separation between work and home – this won’t be possible for everyone but if you possibly can, find a space that can be your ‘office’. Where you are physically removed from the distractions of home. This might mean just fashioning some form of screen to cordon off a corner of a room.
  • Create some mental separation too – before you start your working day, why not take a quick walk or run around the block, then do the same at the end of the day. This will not only allow you a bit of fresh air and exercise, but also create some distance in your head between work and home. Then make a vow not to check your email again until 9am tomorrow.
  • Eat and drink well – it’s very tempting to snack on convenience foods, or to graze endlessly, when you’re working in such close proximity to the fridge. But if you can try to limit yourself to just one small snack between meals, and take a bit more care to eat leafy greens, pulses and grains, you will find you feel better for it in the long run.

If you’d like to find out more about lifestyle medicine, or talk to one of our GPs in confidence about how working from home has affected your mental health, please contact us on 07568 369455 or email info@themayfairgp.com.

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