Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Making a GP appointment over the phone, in person and online

Appointments can be made by phoning the surgery and speaking to the receptionist or going to the health centre in person. Many surgeries use practice nurses to help patients who want an urgent or same day appointment. They assess the person’s symptoms and concerns, and then agree with the patient how their needs might best be met by giving telephone advice or a face to face appointment. The nurse aims to ensure that the person is referred to the right person at the right time, be that the GP, a nurse, or someone else in the team. Simon, like Rowan, often phoned several times in the morning to try and get an appointment. The line was usually busy. Sometimes the receptionist advised Simon to speak to the nurse:
Nikki and Sarah sometimes found it a bit awkward booking an appointment if the receptionist asked what it was about. Both wanted to see the GP about mental health and felt uncomfortable telling the receptionist. Nikki didn’t know what to say so just said she was feeling stressed. Receptionists may ask questions when people make an appointment. Patients don’t have to give any medical details if they don’t want to, though it could help the receptionist ensure that they get an appointment of the right length with the right person. Aphra was pleased that the receptionist realised from her symptoms that she needed to be seen quickly, but Nikki found it frustrating to be questioned about something that she found hard to talk about.
Booking appointments online
Many GP surgeries offer online booking services to patients and, since April 2015, all GPs should provide patients with online access to their medical records (currently summary information only). Online services don’t replace contacting the surgery over the phone or in person. They’re just another way to get in touch. Patients can book and cancel appointments any time of day, order a repeat prescription from home, college or work instead of going to the surgery, or look up their medications online. It’s worth asking the receptionist if the practice has a website that offers this facility. When booking appointments online, the doctor’s name will be shown with each time slot.

Simon often booked his appointments online and found it ‘really convenient...really helpful’. Auberon ordered his repeat prescriptions online too. Rowan said he’d prefer to book appointments online rather than trying to make them in the morning on the way to school, while Siobhan liked to book them while at school when she had some free time. Aphra felt that online booking would be popular with young people because ‘young people hate calling people’, though a few people who rarely saw the GP, like Louis and Gentian, had never heard of online booking.

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