Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Email and online contact with the GP and the surgery

Telephone and online consultations (appointments) between patients and doctors have become more and more a part of normal everyday practice. Email consultations may be used for certain kinds of medical issues such as test results, medication queries, questions about referrals and recent appointments, and queries relating to reports and forms. The questions are answered by a GP.

Auberon felt that it would be good to email GPs a quick question that didn’t need a visit in person, and Ish thought that online consultations were particularly good for people who work.
Simon, who has juvenile arthritis and Crohn’s, felt that online access would be ‘really helpful’ for getting blood test results instead of having to phone the surgery. Being able to go online and see hospital letters and test results would help patients feel that they have more control over their healthcare.

Lara was in favour of GP surgeries using modern technology that could save patients from going into the surgery, but wondered if emailing the GP might involve a long wait for a reply. Ambeya also felt that emails to GPs might take too long to get a reply to, especially if lots of patients started contacting the GP online.
Aphra thought that an online consultation might be useful for something like a rash that could be photographed and sent to the doctor. She liked the idea of booking GP appointments online, which she thought were good for young people who dislike talking on the phone, but also felt that ‘there’s a lot to be gained from sitting opposite somebody and going through’ the issue.

When Siobhan was 14 and went to talk to the GP about depression and self-harm, she found it hard to ‘spit it out’ to a doctor she hardly knew. She later heard about a chat room in another country that had qualified GPs who could give advice 24/7. She would have liked to have had access to something like this when she was having problems. She would also have found it easier to ‘email a summary’ of what she wanted to talk to the GP about before the first appointment. Sarah, Nikki and Sophie also felt that writing things down for the doctor to read before an appointment could be easier for young people who find it hard to talk about mental health to a GP they don’t know very well.
Peter said he always prefers face to face appointments but online chat could be useful for minor issues. It would be hard to tell, though, who a patient was actually speaking to. Hazzan felt uncomfortable with email consultations and felt that they could take too much time. He thought that it could ‘take quite long for the actual session to be complete before the young person feels content with the situation’. Gentian felt that phoning a GP was better than emailing because emails might not get answered, and that hearing a voice is better than ‘just reading’.
Isaac had never heard of the possibility of online consultations, and Lucy said she disliked the idea of them. She found it helpful, though, to talk to people on an online forum when she was having issues with anxiety and panic attacks:
There are also commercial websites selling online and telephone consultations with private GPs, but none of the people we spoke to had used these.

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