This would depend on the nature of the condition that the individual is seeking advice or treatment for, but there are some cases where it would be fair to say that the Podiatrist would be the first choice whilst in other cases the GP should be consulted first.
All GP’s will have a particular specialist area and also a broad knowledge base about a massive amount of other medical conditions but one shouldn’t expect them to be as well versed as any particular health professional who has trained and practices daily in one specific discipline. That is why if you do use your GP as a “first port of call” they will often advise that you seek treatment from the relevant health professional that they feel would best be suited to your particular complaint.
Below are several examples of perhaps “PODIATRIST FIRST”:
If a person were suffering from a suspected INGROWN TOENAIL then it would be far better to see the Podiatrist, more often than not GP’s will prescribe antibiotics and say that will do the trick which unfortunately not true. Whilst the antibiotics will quell any infection in the short term, the nail will continue to grow and pierce the flesh so the problem gets progressively worse in the medium term and if infection returns before the problem is resolved then the patient will need more antibiotics before the potential minor surgery under local anaesthetic can be performed. Incidentally surgery is the usual final outcome due to the delay and resultant increase in pain etc..
Corns/Callus : No need to bother the GP with this, it basically needs removing by the Podiatrist.
Orthotic provision : A podiatrist should be specifically trained to analyse gait problems and have the ability to prescribe the right orthotics for the condition presented. Often we receive referrals from other health professionals such as Osteopaths and Physiotherapists who have realised there is a gait problem causing a knock-on effect further up the frame and want us to have an in-depth look and prescribe accordingly.
VERRUCAE: At one time GP’s often ran Verruca or Wart clinics but this isn’t often the case now so better to visit a Podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment.
PLANTAR FASCIITIS: GP’S will often prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and maybe suggest cortisone injections, there is nothing wrong with this approach except that cortisone only masks the problem for a while but it doesn’t usually cure it. This condition needs more detailed treatment and advice for both the cure and future prevention so ideally the Podiatrist would be the first port of call.
Instances where the GP would be the best initial option would be for example in cases such as potential melanoma or deep vein thrombosis. These types of problem definitely warrant confirmation or referral via the GP to the appropriate specialist consultant who would then instigate the appropriate treatment. That is not to say that we as Podiatrists cannot identify these types of problems correctly, we often do, but even then our course of action would be to direct the patient towards their GP for confirmation and referral.