Communicating with health professionals

Here, the people we talked to discuss their health care experiences. They talk about communicating with health professionals and the care, advice and information they have received from their GP and their consultant and/or specialist secondary care nurses.
General Practice
The ongoing care of osteoporosis for most of the people we talked to is provided by the GP. Some people were very satisfied with the care received and used words such as ‘caring’, ‘helpful’ and ‘understanding’ to describe their GP, and the care they had received. Interestingly, these people thought their GP was ‘pro-active’ rather than ‘reactive,’ meaning that their GP acted swiftly and competently on their behalf. Dennis commented, ‘my doctor doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet. She is marvellous’.
Also, some people identified the whole GP practice as helpful and caring. Valerie, who is a patient in an all women’s practice in the inner city where she lives, said that the care she received was better than she anticipated. Elizabeth thinks herself ‘lucky’ to have a medical practice which is concerned about her wellbeing.
Some people we talked to were not happy with the care they had received in primary care. There were several reasons for this including little consultation time, difficulties in seeing their GP of choice, unsympathetic doctors and inefficiency and also lack of continuity of care. Jane, who developed osteoporosis in pregnancy and was not diagnosed for many weeks after the birth of her son lost trust in medical advice because of the experiences she had with her doctors. Valerie left one practice and moved to another after she was unhappy with her GP.
Some people said they would like to see the same doctor rather than a different one every time they attended the practice. Beryl sees the same GP each visit and this continuity of care is very important to her. In contrast, Susan says that she sees many different GPs in the same practice and they often ‘have no idea what I’m talking about.’ Joan said that she finds it easier to talk to the GP that she has known the longest.
The one issue that was raised time and again by most of the people we talked to is that they did not have sufficient time with their GP. Many people felt that the 10-12 minute slot they were allocated was not nearly enough time to discuss all their concerns and to get answers to the many questions they had about osteoporosis, its treatment and what they could do to help themselves. Often people felt uncomfortable about taking too much time with their GP because they knew that other patients were waiting their turn to see the same doctor. Some of the people we talked to thought that the NHS was under strain and that the little time allotted to them was just ‘a sign of the times’. You may wish to discuss the fact directly with your GP that you would like a longer appointment with them, and make a mutually agreed time for this consultation. Most GPs will agree to this, as they also feel frustrated at the Government constraint of a 10 minute appointment.
However a few people said that their doctors did answer the questions they had. Susannah said that the specialist she saw at the hospital and her own GP were both willing to answer any questions and explain anything she wanted.
Several people would have preferred much more information and advice from their health care professionals. In particular, they needed tailor-made information and advice concerning specific matters about their medication and condition that they felt only a qualified doctor was able to provide (see also Information needs for people with osteoporosis and Sources of information for people with osteoporosis).
As a result, a few people paid to see a consultant privately. Jenny wanted to discuss her medication and to get advice about her neck problems and Linda also wanted to talk about her medication and to get overall advice. Linda described her GP as ‘very nice’ but both Linda and Jenny felt they needed the chance to be able to discuss their osteoporosis in more detail with a health professional.
Knowledge of osteoporosis in primary care
Some people diagnosed many years ago thought that knowledge of osteoporosis in primary care has improved. When they were diagnosed, they said their GP had preconceived ideas or little knowledge of the condition. Rose was diagnosed in 1989 and said that her GP, dismissed the idea of her having osteoporosis because she wasn’t old enough, that only women aged seventy and over developed the condition. The response of Pat’s doctor following her diagnosis was that ‘there was nothing they could do for her’. All these women became actively involved in national and local support groups and worked to raise knowledge and awareness of osteoporosis amongst health professionals and the public (see also Osteoporosis organisations and local support groups).
Nowadays there is a much great awareness amongst most primary health care professionals. However, some younger adults said that they still encountered health professionals who seemed to believe that osteoporosis is an older person’s disease. Robert thinks that as more young adults are getting the condition there is a need for more preventative work to be done.
Consultant and hospital outpatient clinics
Several of the people we talked to were under the care of a consultant rheumatologist or metabolic bone specialist and attended a hospital outpatient clinic on a regular basis. Many felt that their care had vastly improved since seeing a consultant and described them as competent, thorough and able to explain things in an easy to understand manner. Also they felt reassured by their consultant’s willingness to talk to them about medication and treatment options. Ann described the care she received from her consultant’s team as ‘second to none’. Robert said that he has developed a better and more personal relationship with his consultant. He finds it easy to talk to him about his emotions and problems to do with family and relationships. He describes him more ‘like a friend’.
But not everyone’s experience had been positive. Pat had a poor relationship with her former consultant. She found him rude and arrogant and asked her GP to refer her to another consultant. Susannah felt the doctors had been insensitive at her hospital outpatient appointment but she didn’t say anything at the time because she didn’t want to make herself unpopular.
Only Noreen said that she had regular, ongoing contact with an osteoporosis specialist nurse. Noreen felt confident in the nurse who encouraged her to phone whenever she needed to. Many of the people we talked to said they would like the opportunity to talk to a specialist nurse.

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Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated April 2011


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