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Patients often have many questions about the GP Doctor consultation process and all of the questions asked below are genuine questions posed by patients. Hopefully it addresses some misconceptions about the GP consultation. (

How long does my GP Doctor have to see me? It seems very rushed.

10 minutes. Realistically 7 minutes as the 10 minutes includes calling the patient to the consultation room, referring if required, prescribing and writing our notes (which is very important for your records so there is an accurate picture of your medical history which helps in future consultations).

Why not offer longer appointments?

There is already a recruitment crisis in GP and currently there are not enough GPs in the UK. If we offered longer appointment times, fewer patients would be seen in the day, contributing to longer waiting times for appointments.

Why have I been waiting to be seen? My appointment was 15 minutes ago.

The patient before you may have been very unwell with multiple complicated conditions requiring more time. Furthermore your GP may be running a little late if they had to discuss a patient with hospital specialists or had to deal with other emergency situations or telephone calls. It could also be simply that the patients seen before you presented with multiple issues that they wished resolved.

Is your time more important than mine that I have been waiting so long?

No GP feels their time is more valuable than the patient’s time. We do try to keep to time. However situations out with our control contribute to sometimes running late as also mentioned above.

I am only 5 minutes late. Surely this is not an issue?

Bear in mind that you may only feel it is 5 minutes. However if lots of patients attend late for their appointment your GP is then automatically running late for patients later in the day.

What if I have a list of things?

You may have a list. But if you tell me this at the start of the consultation, I may be better able to help you. Mentioning this at the last minute makes it more difficult as we may have spent a large proportion of time on only 1 issue.

I don’t come to the GP often. Surely I am entitled to have longer or discuss all my issues?

We try to discuss and manage as much as we can in 1 consultation. However bear in mind that there are other people waiting so it doesn’t mean I can solve all your problems in 1 appointment especially if they are more routine matters and you have, for example, 5 things you want addressed.

Years ago my GP had time to have some social chit chat. Why not now?

It’s not that your GP is not interested but is pushed for time and the next patient will already be waiting to be seen. We feel it is important to actively engage with patients and firmly believe that part of this is building a good doctor-patient relationship. Unfortunately due to time constraints we may not be able to talk to you for as long as we would like.

The waiting room only has a few patients in it. Surely the GP must not be very busy?

This shows an effective appointment system that is working well and not large queues still waiting to be seen.

Why do you not know all my medical history when I come to see you?

It may be the first time you have met the doctor and he/she will not have had time before seeing you to go through all of your notes in any great detail. In addition it is better for us to ask you to get accurate information rather than just rely on the notes.

Have you read my notes before seeing me?

With anywhere between 5,000 – 15,000 patients we can’t know everything about your medical history off by heart. We probably haven’t had a chance to look at your notes in great detail before seeing you. However if we need to know more we can ask you or look at your medical notes during the consultation.

The GP called me back today. Why is he/she asking me what I wish to discuss?

We cannot assume why you are here. You may be attending to discuss something else and that’s why even if we have asked you to come back we ask at the beginning the reason for your attendance.

My GP is looking at the computer during the consultation. I’m sure he/she is using Google to diagnose me?

No we are not diagnosing you using our computer. We need to look at the computer for your medical notes. We also may use the computer to check doses and local guidelines regarding drug prescriptions.

Why is my GP asking me what is wrong? Doesn’t he/she know? I just want a diagnosis.

If your GP asks something similar to “What do you think may be causing your symptoms?”. It isn’t because he/she wants you to self-diagnose. You may have thoughts about what you feel may be causing your symptoms or condition. Everyone has thoughts about what may be wrong. If we know this we can answer questions you may have regarding this or to address misconceptions you may have. Furthermore it also helps us identify how much detail we need to give as you may already know a great deal about your symptoms/condition. If we don’t know what you think may be causing your symptoms you may leave the consultation feeling that your questions haven’t been answered or that you are adamant it is something else. We don’t want you to leave thinking “My GP told me I have X condition. I think I have Y condition”.

Why does my GP ask so many questions rather than just tell me what is wrong?

Most diagnosis by all doctors is reached from information gathered from the patient. Therefore it is important that we gather as much relevant information as necessary to do this. Investigations can be helpful to diagnose but remember most diagnosis is reached from talking to you. In addition we do not have access to immediate scans and blood results.

My GP looks at a book for drug doses. Why?

We can’t remember all drugs doses and sometimes have to look these up. It’s better to be accurate if we are unsure. In addition there are multiple doses for children depending on their age.

I have been asked to come back for a follow up. Should I?

Yes. If your GP feels you should attend again to review your condition it is important to do this. This will also prevent asking for an emergency appointment in case things haven’t improved. If your GP has asked that you come back in a few weeks he/she may also want to see how your condition is evolving or discuss blood results that you have yet to have done.

I came back a few weeks later and another GP said I had something else? Was I misdiagnosed?

Not necessarily. Symptoms evolve. We can only base our diagnosis based on what you present with at the time of seeing us. Symptoms and conditions evolve over time.

I came about my sore foot. Why am I having my BP taken or asked about smoking or if I am up to date with my smears?

We may try to opportunistically help with health promotion. You may not attend to see us often and it may be the only chance we get to discuss these areas which can help improve your health.

Why can’t I see the doctor that I want?

We try to accommodate you with the doctor of your choice. However if you want to be seen sooner you may have to be willing to see any doctor. Remember that the GP you wish to see may be fully booked, not available or on annual leave.

Why can’t I be seen on the same day?

We try to reserve same day appointments for the most unwell otherwise we would not be able to see the most vulnerable and unwell patients who need same day appointments.

Is the receptionist deliberately trying to be awkward?

No the receptionist has a difficult job in allocating appointments and inevitably people will be upset if they can’t be seen on the same day. GP practices operate slightly differently and many have a duty doctor to triage appointments.

Why is my GP being protective about same day appointments?

These run out very quickly and we only have a limited supply. That’s why we try to reserve them for the most unwell patients and ask that routine matters are seen at routine appointments.

Why do I have to wait so long for a routine appointment?

Due to a shortage of GPs and appointments around the country we prioritise unwell patients and unfortunately this results in patients having to wait for more routine matters.

How long do you have to see me?

10 minutes in total. That includes typing up notes and calling you in. So in reality we have about 7 minutes.

Do you wish you had longer to see me?

Yes but there aren’t enough GPs in the country for this to happen and there are a shortage of appointments.

Are you closed for lunch?

No. We may not have a pre-set clinic but we are still working. When not directly seeing someone during clinic times we have to read clinical notes, hospital letters, out of hours emergency letters, blood results, call patients and attend meetings (palliative care, child protection, district nurses, practice meetings).

Why aren’t the doctors in my surgery seeing patients for the whole day?

We have clinic times. Outside of these times it doesn’t mean that the GP isn’t working or is having a long lunch break. When not directly seeing someone during clinic times we have to read clinical notes, hospital letters, out of hours emergency letters, blood results, call patients and attend meetings (palliative care, child protection, district nurses, practice meetings).

Why can’t I get a sick note on the same day via telephone from the duty doctor?

If you are calling for an extension of a sick note this is not classed as an emergency. You should let your employer know and we normally have this done within a few days. Remember that each task may only seem like a few minutes but all the minutes add up.

Why doesn’t my GP provide a 24 hr service?

We would love to do this but there aren’t enough facilities in place for this to happen not to mention a shortage of doctors and funding. If GPs did longer evenings/nights or weekend shifts they would require days off in lieu to meet health regulations and to have time off. The same GP can’t work 24 hours a day 7 days a week indefinitely. The overall weekly appointments would actually be reduced due to this reason compared to those offered currently offered in a 5 day service. However please note that at weekends A&E should not be your first port of call if you feel it is not an emergency. There are GP services in the whole country at weekends and you should be calling them for advice if you are unwell.

Should I go to A&E at weekends and nights because my regular GP is closed?

No. You should only go to A&E if it is an emergency or you are very unwell. Just because your own GP practice may be closed at the weekend doesn’t mean that there isn’t GP cover and services available for unwell patients. GPs provide out-of-hours services that cover the whole of the UK at weekends.

Reception Poster

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