Do you find going to your GP to be a difficult and stressful experience?
With NHS appointments, you can only pre-book weeks in advance – or phone early in the morning to get an emergency appointment – if you’re lucky to grab the available time slots.
Then you have on average 12 minutes to explain what’s wrong with you, be examined, discuss treatment options and then have your doctor write you a prescription or give advice.
Oh – and most doctor’s surgeries only allow you to discuss one ailment at a time. Eek!
Here’s our guide to getting the most out of your appointment:
What to wear for your GP appointment
If you’re going to an NHS appointment with a limited time frame, it might be worth considering wearing garments which are easy to slip on and off – tops with numerous buttons, or boots that you struggle to get on and off might be a poor idea. You'll end up losing time and feeling flustered. Likewise, if you need to talk to your GP about a skin problem, rocking up caked in make up is not such a great idea! Make sure your doctor can see your skin, so he can diagnose appropiately.
Be comfortable with your GP
When you’re using the NHS, it’s often necessary to take the first appointment you get – even if you don’t know them, or you find them tricky to communicate with. For some people, they will feel more comfortable with a doctor of their own sex. If you need to have an intimate examination, you are well within your rights to ask for a chaperone. Don’t feel embarrassed about symptoms: doctors are used to dealing with intimate issues, such as vaginal problems or fungal infections. If you have a concern speak up. Speaking clearly about problems will make sure you get the correct treatment fast.
Be clear on what you need
GPs will often ask you ‘How can I help?’ This is your opportunity to talk without interruption about the symptoms that have brought you to the surgery.
The doctors will be listening out for certain symptoms that may be a cause for concern. These might include:
• Unexplained weight loss
• Lumps in the breast
• Blood in the stools
• Chest pain
Of course, not all of these symptoms necessarily mean you are seriously ill. There are often perfect innocent explanations, but your GP will turn detective – by asking other questions, examining you, or ordering blood tests. They may also offer you a referral to a consultant.
If you are a worried patient – that’s probably a lot of us – it’s tempting to google symptoms. For example, a chest pain may be a sign of a cardiac issue. But it is often mistaken as a heart attack. A trip to the GP should provide the necessary reassurance. Conversely, the issue of not being able to discuss more than one problem during an appointment could theoretically cause patients not to mention certain pertinent symptoms. Extreme tiredness and a change in bowel habits when presented together are red flags for ovarian cancer. Only being able to discuss one symptom could theoretically, mean doctors can miss certain symptoms – although most GPs will question and quiz further. But if you have read something on Google that concerns you, do ask. And if you’re still not happy, consider a second opinion.
What to do if you don’t feel happy with your GP appointment
If you wish, you can make another appointment with the GP and ask for clarification, or alternatively try another doctor in the same practice. In certain situations, you may be happier leaving the GP practice and finding a new one. If you feel you have reason to make a complaint, you should talk to your surgery and ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. However, if the only issue is you felt rushed and would appreciate a longer appointment or a second opinion, finding a private GP could be the best answer. Registering with a private GP means you don’t have to lose your NHS doctor, but you can enjoy peace of mind that nothing has been missed through lack of time or resources.
Find out more about private GPs at Twenty-five Harley Street here.