Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Different kinds of GP appointments

Surgeries may work slightly differently and offer different kinds of appointments, including some or all of the ones below.

Urgent appointments
Some practices (surgeries or health centres) keep a number of slots for patients who need to be seen urgently (urgent appointments). There is usually less choice of doctor and patients may have to see whoever is free.
Caitlin is living with a long-term illness and has little movement below her neck. If she needs to see the GP, her mum makes an appointment and the doctor visits Caitlin at home later that day.
Arrive and wait appointments
Aphra’s surgery also offered ‘arrive and wait’ appointments. These appointments guarantee that patients will be seen on the day, but the waiting time can be long depending on the number of people waiting to be seen. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are usually the busiest times for practices.
John recalled that his university surgery had ‘open hours’ – students could walk in and wait to see a GP. Sarah’s university surgery had something similar – drop-in sessions three times a week where students could see a GP without making an appointment beforehand. 

Advance appointments 
It’s important to book an advance appointment if someone needs to review a repeat prescription for medication they take regularly, whether that’s for an illness or contraception. Sarah now makes sure she books an appointment for repeat prescriptions straight after a consultation because she once ran out of the contraceptive pill. Aphra had to make an emergency appointment when she ran out of antidepressants and Siobhan – who knew she’d need a repeat prescription for antidepressants – intended to book an appointment before she went on holiday. Most practices allow patients to book an appointment from a few days to several weeks in advance.
Same day booking
This system involves patients calling the practice at specific times when appointments are ‘released’. Some surgeries have a special telephone queuing system, so people can listen to the recorded message and follow the instructions. It can help to know which days a preferred GP works, and to keep calling or to visit the surgery in person to get an appointment. It can be a longer wait if someone wants to see a particular GP, especially if that doctor is very popular. This mattered more to some people than others, partly depending on the reason for the appointment. Simon, who has two long-term conditions, preferred to see the same GP whenever possible but Louis, who rarely saw a doctor, was less worried about this.
Hannah phoned the surgery again and again in the morning but the line was busy. By the time she got through, all the appointments had been taken. It was easier to get an appointment in person:
Telephone consultations
This is when patients phone in for a telephone appointment with the GP. It usually involves speaking to the receptionist first and giving a brief description of the problem. This information is then passed to the caller’s preferred GP, who will call the patient back, often within a couple of hours.

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