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Make the Most of Your Appointment

Our doctors see around 30 patients per doctor each day and spend an average of 10 minutes with each patient. They also speak to many patients over the telephone and spend time writing referrals and medical reports, as well as writing and signing large numbers of prescriptions for our patients.

But we understand that you’re busy too! Here are a few ideas to make sure that you cover everything you want to discuss and both you and your doctor can get the most from your visit.

See the same doctor – if you have a long-term problem, try to see a doctor who knows you.  Many GPs work part-time so you may need to be organised when booking appointments.  Yes, you might need to wait another day, but it will save you both a lot of time, because you won’t have to keep going over the same ground.  For urgent matters, any doctor should be able to help, even if they don’t know your case.

Sum it up – if you are seeing a new doctor, bring them up-to-date at the start of the appointment.  Your GP probably won’t have time to do more than skim through your record before you talk to them.

Write a list – Before you see the doctor, write a list of problems, starting with the most important.  List your symptoms so that you don’t forget them.  Write down when they started and what makes them better or worse during a 24-hour period.  Most GPs will be happy to deal with a couple of problems in one 10-minute appointment but, if there are 3 or more issues, you may be asked to come back again to deal with the least pressing ones.  Your GP needs to have the time to deal with your problems appropriately.  If you have a complicated problem, ask for a double appointment when you book.

Don’t worry – be honest about what you think may be causing the problem, and don’t be embarrassed.  Your doctor will have seen and heard it all before.  Research shows that we forget half of what we’re told by the doctor when we’re stressed, so bring a friend or relative if you’re worried.

Be fair to other patients and your GP – Make one appointment for each family member who needs to be seen.  If you ask the GP to see more than one person during an appointment, it means everyone else will have longer in the waiting room.

Understand what’s happening and be clear about what you want to happen – ask the doctor to repeat and explain anything you don’t understand.  If there are words you don’t understand, ask what they mean or ask the doctor to write them down so that you can look them up later.

Be clear about what you want the doctor to do, such as, refer you to a specialist or prescribe a different medication.  Be assertive if you need to, but always be polite. 

If you and your GP decide you need to be referred for specialist tests or treatment, you usually have a right to choose which hospital you go to.

Call if you need to cancel – let us know if you can’t make an appointment.  GP surgeries experience lots of missed appointments each week, which could have been used for others.

Talk to our staff – all our staff have to comply with the same confidentiality rules as the doctors.  If you can give them a brief idea of your problem, they can direct you to the most appropriate service.  This might be a nurse or pharmacist, rather than the doctor.

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