Many people are afraid of going to the General Practitioner (GP or Doctor) whether this is because they don’t want to be thought feeble or waste the Doctors time – who knows. Nevertheless the fact remains that going to the Doctor is not like going to the dentist, theatre or shopping. It is definitely not something you would chose to do because to go to the Doctor you have to be ill and thus not at your best. It might be because walking in the surgery door evokes feelings of being a child and being marched to the Doctors when you had no choice. Or you might have had stitches or told some awful truth…. You certainly don’t go to the Doctors on a good day.
I had a cat like that once – every time we neared the vet surgery – Susie would growl down deep in her throat and all the hair on the back of her neck would stand up. We thought it was due to the smell of disinfectants and cleanliness which made it so different from my house.
But to start at the beginning – have you got a Doctor?
Not got a GP?
Haven’t registered with a GP, moved and not changed Doctors or living away from home? If so click on this link to find your nearest NHS services, emergency, dentist or walk in centre
So when you go to the Doctors you are not at your best and probably look rubbish too especially if you have a streaming cold or injuries. You need help and advice and probably feel apprehensive, powerless and probably a bit sorry for yourself.
Read this article now and put it somewhere safe for when you need it – my 15 hot tips to get the best from your Doctor.
1. Why are you going to the Doctor
You do not want to come out with nothing to show for the trauma of getting time off work, parking, sitting in a waiting room reading infected magazines and having to get your symptoms in the right order. Do you want some antibiotics? Time off work? General advice? Just someone to listen to you? If you have an idea in mind of what outcome you are expecting you can tell the Doctor that if things are going your way. Many times I have asked people what they wanted when they went to the Doctor and they look at me as if I am mad. You need to know and tell the Doctor – they will then either tell you why you can’t have it or give it to you.
2. Using the right medical term
So many intelligent people want to use the right medical language that this causes stress in itself. Take my word for it the Doctor will have heard it all and try to understand what you’re saying. Nowadays Doctors use simple, non-complex language so that everyone can understand.
There are loads of jokes about tablets being put in the back passage and not working.
Interestingly Doctors are speaking simpler and patients more technical. The problem is that if you get the intonation or the use wrong then you can look even more silly.
What is important though is the symptoms that you have and the order they came so it might be useful to jot this down to help you remember as the GP quizzes you and tries to work out what it might be.
3. Can you afford to go Private?
Doctors have clear guidelines on trying to deal with health issues in a set way which may mean following a pathway even though it’s plainly not working, making your worse or keeping you ill, see part of the flow chart for hypertension (blood pressure) treatments. If you say that you want to go privately and a first consultation will cost around about £200 with a specialist, mention this as a last resort. I have done this before and it’s interesting how the Doctor will suddenly say that this is a good idea although how it can be a when before they had to go the way of the crowds I don’t know. Anyway, it’s an option if you are desperate.
4. The Doctor is not a friend
This is controversial, but the Doctor is there to give a service. GP’s are the gatekeepers to the nation health service. One of their jobs is to make sure you don’t jump the queue but they also have to make sure they take the right steps. Treat the GP with respect but do not think that the service out of love for you. There is an element of vocational involvement but with appointments scheduled for 10 – 15 minutes a go there is not time to talk about the weather and idle chit-chat.
5. Research your health problem before you attend
You know that you can find anything on-line today and health is no exception. The only warning is that there is also a lot of rubbish written about some health conditions too so make sure you go to a reputable source such as the official NHS website here.
If you do find information that you believe is relevant print it off and take it along with you to show the Doctor. There are thousands of health conditions and a Doctor cannot be expected to know every detail of each – which is why we have specialists. Highlight any particular text that you believe is relevant and use the time to discuss your expectations and why you have brought that along.
6. If you want time off work due to a health problem
The GP is expected to keep you at work because people who go on long-term sick tend to get other health problems linked to being at home, problems such as anxiety, depression and because of lack of interaction and money they become socially isolated. So if you are unable to manage work due to health issues talk to your Manager/Supervisor before you see the GP and ask for the difficult tasks removed and replaced with other jobs. For example, if you have broken your arm and it’s in a plaster cast ask if you can work at home. Or if you have hurt your back and find bending and lifting difficult – are there other jobs you can do at the office or can the workplace be modified temporarily until you recover?
The new fit note has provisions for the GP to support this and gives the employer peace of mind that you have ‘medical clearance’ to be at work.
7. If you need to talk to the Doctor
Call the surgery early in the morning and ask if one of the Doctors can call you to discuss the situation. This saves both you and the GP trouble from wasting time for a 5 minute conversation.
8. Call 111 instead of 999
I know this is on the list of things to do but in my experience there is a limited value in calling this number.
Often people have a good idea what to do in cases of ill-health and get frustrated talking through the options with a medical adviser who invariably ask you to talk to your GP or call 999 anyway. But you might want to give it a go if you cannot get an appointment with your GP. Click here for more information about this service
9. Repeat Prescriptions
If you are on long-term medication try to talk the doctor into extending the life of prescriptions. GP’s seem reluctant to do this because people get carrier bags full of drugs every 3 months and by asking a patient to sign this every few months or so cuts down on needless repeat prescriptions. But if you do have a long-term health condition that is unlikely to go away – why not have the prescriptions written for say one year and not every 3 months? It seems silly to keep trotting along and picking up. After all once you have some health conditions they are never going to go away eg thyroid, blood pressure.
10. If you need to speak the receptionist
Remember that you are within your rights to ask to talk to someone privately about a health situation. The receptionist is not medically trained so will not understand all the types of health problems you might have. Someone recently said to me that the reasons receptionist ask what the matter is was to give time to for the GP to google it!
11. No news from Tests you’ve had?
Most blood tests take about a week to come back from the laboratory. The results sent back to the GP are mostly electronically now and can easily go astray. Occasionally test results may get missed so it is important that you ring up to find out about your results. Make sure you have an idea about what the test is for. If the results show nothing abnormal consider whether you ought to make another appointment to find out what the problem is – after all the test was for a reason right?
12. Concerned about your health records
Data protection legislation means you can have access to your own health files at the GP. This can’t be done immediately but apply in writing for a copy of your whole NHS file with your Doctor. If you disagree with any of the facts in the file then you can ask to have them amended.
13. If you don’t like your GP
Now this is a tricky one. But in every profession there are the good ones and the not so good. I can always tell the less popular GP’s as you can nearly always get an appointment to see them. The more popular Doctors you have to wait a couple of weeks. That is a bit of a generalisation but you get my point. If you find that you don’t like your GP for whatever reason you can ask to see another.
I have never understood that you have to wait to see your own GP in a practice of GP’s even when the others are free. Again, a good example of the GP not being your friend. After all if you are sick then see any of them. Remember too you can ask for a second opinion.
14. A relative not well
GP’s are really understanding about difficulties with relatives and although they are not allowed to share medical information without written consent – they do keep great secrets. I have often advised relatives of the elderly having difficulties with health and refusing to visit the GP, to talk to their surgery in confidence. GP’s are excellent in finding ways of making sure their patients are safe and have the correct care.
15. Returning to GP
Often GP’s give out what they think is the correct treatment and say goodbye. The problem is that sometimes the correct treatment does not work. For example, antibiotic resistant bugs or blood pressure tablets giving horrible side effects.
In this situation it’s important that you return to the GP for the next stage of the treatment or to discuss other options. Don’t wait and get really sick – make another appointment or give your GP a ring.
Have you had trouble with your GP – what worked for you?