Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you make the most of your GP appointment.
DO make some notes beforehand
Before your appointment, think about what you wish to talk about. If you have more than one problem to discuss, make a list in order of priority with the most important first. Think about what questions you want to ask your GP and what you want to achieve from the consultation. It is a good idea to write this all down and bring your notes along to your appointment.
You might also want to make a list of the symptoms you are experiencing. Your GP will probably want to know about these, and being able to explain your symptoms in detail will make it more likely that they will be able to help you. Think about what you are experiencing and since when, how frequently it occurs and the severity, what makes it better or worse, and how it is affecting you.
DO book an appropriate appointment
If you have more than one problem to discuss you should probably book a double appointment so that each problem can be given the time it deserves. You may also want to see a particular GP such as a female doctor. Please wear appropriate clothes in case an examination is required.
Also, think about whether your GP is the best person to see about the problem. In some circumstances it may be better to see a Practice Nurse or a Health Care Assistant. You can use the “Who do I see” tool on this page for guidance.
DO take a friend, relative or interpreter along if you want to
You are welcome to bring along a friend or relative to your consultation if you wish. They can be of reassurance if you are worried and can also help you remember what you are told. Your GP will of course want your assurance that you are happy for the person to be present.
Patients under the age of 14 should be accompanied by a parent of guardian. Over the age of 14, patients may still be accompanied, but please note that they may also have the right to be seen alone if they wish to and are considered competent to do so.
If you have no one to accompany you, you have the right to ask for a member of staff to act as a chaperone for you. Just ask at reception upon your arrival.
DO expect to be examined.
Your GP is likely to want to examine you. This is routine for GPs and will take place in private, so please do not be embarrassed. If you need to undress, you will be given privacy to do so. You may also want to consider wearing appropriate clothing to your appointment.
For more information about privacy, please see our section on Privacy at the Surgery.
DO get to the point
Ten minutes is not a lot of time, so make the most of it. Please do not spend time building up to what you really want to say. The quicker you tell your GP why you are really there, the more time they will have to deal with the problem.
DO get it all out at the beginning
If you have a couple of things to discuss, mention them both at the beginning rather than saying “and while I’m here there was something else…”. Your GP will then be able to plan the consultation to give each problem the time it deserves. Also, if one problem is more important, ask your GP to deal with that problem first.
DO be honest
Your GP will only be able to help you if you are honest about the problem and what you are experiencing. Your GP is not here to judge you, they are here to help you.
If you are worried about something, then say so. Your GP will then be able to address this and hopefully put your mind at rest.
DO ask if you do not understand or need reassurance
Your GP will be happy to repeat and explain anything you don’t understand, so do ask. If there is a word you don’t understand, ask your GP to write it down and explain what it means. If you do not understand why your GP is recommending a particular course of action, then say so and they will be happy to explain and reassure you.
DO give your opinion as well
Your GP may have the medical training, but you are the one with the problem. If you are not happy, then please say so. A consultation is a two-way conversation and your GP is trying to work with you to find the best solution.
DON’T turn up with a lot of problems
If you have a number of problems to discuss, it would be better to book separate appointments so that each problem can be given the time it deserves. If there is not enough time in your appointment for all the problems you wish to discuss, your GP will likely ask you to choose the most important to deal with.
Also, if you have an appointment for yourself, please do not ask the GP to see your child as well. Children should be booked into their own appointment where they can be given the time they deserve.
DON’T be embarrassed
Whatever the problem, it is likely that your GP has seen and heard it many times. Remember, they are here to help you, and the details of your consultation are kept in the strictest confidence.
DON’T expect your GP to solve everything in one visit
Medicine can be complicated, and it may take some time for your GP and you to reach the best solution. Sometimes different treatments may need to be tried. Other times you may need to see another member of the practice team or be referred to an outside specialist for further investigation.
DON’T expect to always receive a prescription or a referral
Sometimes a referral or medication is the not the best way to deal with a problem. Remember that your GP is also there to protect you from taking medication or having a procedure unnecessarily.
There is a lot of pressure on budgets in the NHS at the moment. However, please be assured that you GP will always refer you or prescribe you appropriate medication if, in their opinion, this would be of benefit to you.
Also, if you do want to be referred to a particular specialist or prescribed a particular medication, it is important to say so.
DON’T talk about your teeth
Doctor’s are not dentists. If you have a problem with your teeth you should always see your dentist instead. To find an NHS dentist, visit the NHS Choices website.