Getting the most from your GP appointment

Every surgery has a different system for booking an appointment. To make it as easy and convenient as possible many now offer online booking. Find out if you can set up your visit, or order repeat prescriptions online and at your own convenience.

When to ask for a telephone consultation

If you have a health complaint such as food poisoning or flu, sitting in the waiting room when your immunity is low puts you at risk of catching other germs. Instead, make an appointment for a consultation over the phone with your GP.

Make a list

Before you go, think through everything that you want to ask and write it down. If you have more than one issue, start with the most important ones first.

As the doctor talks your problem through with you, you can make notes to remind yourself later of anything you may be worried you’ll forget.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

You might need to ask your doctor to be clearer, or question why they’re suggesting a particular course of action, in order to get a treatment that feels right for you both. Remember that you don’t have to walk out the door with a prescription at all. For many people, it’s enough just to get reassurance from their doctor that they are fine and don’t need any treatment. If you still have doubts or worries, ask for a second opinion.

Top 10 for tips for getting the most from your GP appointment

  1. Find out what your GP practice offers – opening times, what services they provide. You can find this information on your [GP web page].

  2. Be as explicit as you can about why you need to make a visit when you book. This will help reception staff identify the most appropriate member of staff for you to see.

  3. Ask for an appointment with the same GP each time as they will know your health history. Children under 14 should always be accompanied.

  4. Make a list of what’s wrong – if you have several symptoms, begin with the most important first. You will need to tell your doctor about any medicines or supplements you are taking, so make a note of these too.

  5. Ask for a double appointment if you have more than one health problem you want to talk about. This will give you and your GP more time.

  6. If you think you may find it hard to remember everything the doctor says to you, take a notepad and make notes during your visit. Or take a friend so that between you, you'll remember all the important bits.

  7. Be honest. Tell your GP if you feel embarrassed talking about your problem and they'll make you feel at ease. Ask questions. For example, if your doctor suggests you have a certain test, ask what it is and why you need it. What do procedures involve? When will you get your results?

  8. Give your opinion. An appointment is about working together with your GP to decide what's best for you.

  9. If you and your doctor agree on a certain treatment, make sure you're clear about what its effects are and how quickly It will work. Ask about possible side effects, and whether it will interact with other medicines you're already taking. If you have a question about prescribed medicine after the appointment, ask your pharmacist for advice.

  10. Don’t be scared to say if there’s anything the doctor is telling you that you don’t understand, or if you need reassurance.