‘I went into hiding for a year’
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A young mum from Leicester who lost all her hair to alopecia in the space of a few months is calling on doctors to return of face to face appointments.
Charlotte Collins, 27, was shocked to discover a bald patch the size of a 50 pence on top of her head in June 2020 after her boyfriend Theo White, 26, spotted it while outside.
The mum-of-one was devastated after being diagnosed with alopecia just weeks later and was told the cause was delayed stress.
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But since her diagnosis, Charlotte has claimed to be unable to get a face to face appointment with a doctor, leaving her worried the alopecia may be caused by something more serious.
Charlotte made the decision to shave her head last September and has since been fighting to get seen in person by a doctor.
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Groups has said that while currently around six in 10 appointments were now face to face, GPs are facing enormous pressures post-pandemic.
Charlotte, who runs a removals company, said: "I was in the garden with my boyfriend and the wind blew and he told me I had a bald patch on top of my head.
"I rang the doctor and told them and they got me in straight away the next day for blood tests but after they came back all clear, I was diagnosed with alopecia.
"My hair was falling out in handfuls – I've always had thick, luscious brown hair so this was devastating to me.
"I couldn't wash or brush it because it would just fall out in clumps.
"Next I started losing my eyebrows, eyelashes and I just wanted an answer as to why this was happening to me.
"The doctors told me it was delayed stress but I was at the happiest I had ever been and I can't help but wonder if it's something more serious that's causing this.
"Since that first appointment, I haven't been able to see a doctor and my appointments kept getting cancelled.
"I was left with this devastating information and absolutely no help and had to save up hundreds to buy myself wigs and hats to cover it up".
By September 2020, Charlotte had lost 80% of her hair and had a few remaining strands on the top and bottom, leaving her with no choice but to shave.
Charlotte explained: "I've always been known for having the thickest, longest hair so it was a shock for me to lose it all so quickly.
"When I first started losing my hair, I started wearing hats all the time.
"I had never bought a wig in my life so it was daunting. The prices of wigs are extreme and it's upsetting for someone who doesn't have a massive income.
"I was more stressed after my diagnosis which meant my hair just kept on falling out and I wasn't referred to a therapist or counsellor. I went into hiding for a year."
Charlotte was left frustrated after claiming to have had hospital appointments cancelled.
She added: "I have a daughter and the thought of her losing her blonde curls would destroy me.
"There's no support for people with alopecia.
"I'm convinced I must have some sort of malnourishment or something missing that's causing me not to develop hair follicles but I'm not able to see a doctor for more investigation.
"I had an appointment with the hospital that was pushed back four times and this year they cancelled it completely.
"All I want is to rule out anything that could have caused it and it's causing me a lot of worry.
"One 15 minute doctors appointment wasn't enough to suffice what I've lost.
"I made the decision to shave my head after waiting for a dermatologist to call and never hearing from them. I was frustrated but it was the best decision I could have made at the time – it was a weight lifted off me.
"My boyfriend shaved it and I kept two little plaits. It was emotional and sentimental and I was in shock for quite a while after doing it".
Since then, Charlotte's hair has started growing back slowly and she now has three cm of hair.
She said: "I have been getting Indian head massages every night which I think has really helped my hair to grow back.
"No hair will grow where the 50 pence patch started.
"I want to see more bald models for high street and online stores.
"You see all the diversity when it comes to skin colour and weight size but for hair, you hardly see any bald models and I think it's important for young people to have role models to look up to.
"GPs need to start seeing people face to face again – it's frustrating for me to be left alone to deal with this".
Commenting on the reduction of face-to-face GP appointments, a spokeswoman for the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “We cannot comment publicly on individual cases, but for any patient who has concerns, it is important that they first discuss these with their GP practice. If the concern cannot be resolved, they can contact us by email [email protected] and we will look into the concern.
“Since lockdown has eased, more patients are contacting their GP practice again – including for longstanding problems they might have previously delayed seeking help for.
"This has resulted in exceptional pressures, not just locally but across the country.
"Our GP practices are providing face to face appointments; in July 2021 there were 335,081 in-person appointments across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, which is more than six out of every ten appointments.
“There is also the option to have online consultations, which are often appropriate and many patients have found these to be more convenient.
"However, GPs will discuss the most appropriate way of seeing a patient and will provide a face to face appointment if this is felt to be the best way of dealing with a patient’s problem.”
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‘I went into hiding for a year’