GP clinic offers medical care for skin treatments

GP clinic offers medical care for skin treatments

8th October 2013


MOST people wouldn’t give the blood vessel on the end of the child’s nose a second look; but to the nine-year-old it’s the end of the world.

Another patient reveals she has never worn skirts in decades because of what she feels are unsightly veins on her legs. Similarly a patient has shunned sandals because the prominent veins on her feet make them look blue.

Conditions like these have a major impact on people’s lives, undermining self-confidence, whittling away at self-esteem, but they are not considered serious enough to warrant treatment on the NHS.

In an ever-increasing image-conscious world, where people’s abilities are often judged on their appearance, men, women and children are turning to the health service for help, just as the money is more restricted than ever.

To try and help, a North-East GP and her colleagues are stepping into the fold and where the work can’t be done on the NHS, they are offering private treatments at an affordable price.

Also in an era where many treatments are offered at salons, leading to calls for regulation, they offer the medical expertise to ensure patient safety.

“This is not about the business it is about the greater good,” says Dr Jenny Steel, a partner at Blacketts medical practice in Darlington. “There is no longer the money to have many of our procedures done on the NHS so we offer patients alternatives. If they have something that can be treated by their GP we refer them back. Our approach is as clinicians because we want the best outcomes for everyone.”

Mum to Arianne, six and Rowan, three and wife of science teacher Alasdair, Dr Steel is a GP to thousands of patients, a skilled practitioner in skin care and laser technology and a manager of a thriving health business.

She is also involved in the Clinical Commissioning Group which manages local health provision in this new era of care.

Born in Worcester, she always had strong links with the North-East as her mother was from Prudhoe and she was a frequent visitor to the region, which she felt was her second home.

Inspired by a childhood illness that left her in hospital fighting viral meningitis, the 37-year-old studied at Newcastle University taking micro-biology, medical micro-biology, then a physiology degree before funding her medical training by working full-time in Tescos.

“I spent eight years in Newcastle and then trained at Middlesbrough General and James Cook hospitals,” she says. “My husband, who I met at university, was working as a microbiologist at GSK in Barnard Castle, so we ended up living in Darlington.

“I always wanted to be a GP and think my alternative training, and the fact I worked in retail, has really made me a better doctor because it developed my people skills. People like to come to see me because I am approachable and they can relate to me.”

From early in her training she became interested in skin and how she could help people in general practice.

“We became aware of businesses offering potentially damaging treatments with no medical background and so we decided to launch a skin and laser clinic,” she says. “We decided that if anyone should be doing this it should be people with clinically based experience. At around the same time I was at an exercise class and I noticed one of the ladies had what looked like a malignant melanoma on her back so I suggested she get it checked out. You have to be very careful with skin and if treatments aren’t carried out correctly there can be some serious side effects.”

The clinic now offers a range of services, from chemical peels to derma fillers, injectables to laser treatment for pigmented skin, lesions, blood vessels and veins.

“With all of this you really need to know what you are doing and we have the backing of an established medical clinic. There is very little regulation at the moment and there should be much more. If I needed a procedure I would want to go somewhere where the staff  have appropriate training and professional indemnity otherwise there is the danger of disfigurement, scarring, infection and skin breakdown.”

Patients range from children to ladies approaching their 80s determined to look their best. The clinic is also popular with sportsmen and women wanting hair removal as well as clients with Asian skin who are troubled with unwanted facial hair and pigmentation.

“Clients do this for themselves and the impact can be life-changing,” she says. “We know times are tough and everyone is careful how they spend their money but the boost to self-esteem and confidence is phenomenal.

“We have had ladies who haven’t had the confidence to wear skirts, sandals or flip-flops for years because of their veins and people feel so much more able to tackle the world if they are happy with their image. One laser application on the child’s nose and the blood vessel has gone and the child could not be happier.

“We are all living longer and want to look our best for as long as we can. It is so rewarding for me and complements my work as a GP because the effects are so positive.”

The period of austerity hitting the country has also had a major impact on health spending, a fact Dr Steel is only too aware of working for the CCG. With her CCG hat on she is currently working on a project looking at the primary care needs of the borough. “I feel very positive about this new era of health care,” she says.

“I believe that primary care has to get better and this is a real opportunity to do this. It has to be driven from the bottom up; by the patients, nurses and doctors.
So we are doing a lot of work around what patients want and how they can access health care in Darlington in the future. This might include Skyping, Facebook, telephone consultations; it’s about trying new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. It is also about getting the word out and managing patients’ expectations. They have to be aware of what they can access and what is appropriate.” Her report is due to be published in the autumn.

“With the skin clinic we are helping well people feel even better; the GP practice helps people get well and the CCG is shaping the future of health care for the better. So I am very lucky and love helping the community at all these levels as it is incredibly rewarding.”

News in October