Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Telephone and Skype contact with the GP

Some people had experience of a telephone consultation (a GP appointment over the phone), which could be a quicker and easier alternative to a face to face consultation as long as the doctor doesn’t need to examine the person. It was also helpful for people who couldn’t get to the surgery easily.

When Aaron had neck and shoulder pain for several weeks, he tried to get an appointment with a doctor. No GP was available in person so he was given a telephone consultation instead. He felt that telephone consultations are ‘a great idea’, especially as doctors are very busy, but would prefer a face to face appointment next time as the pain was still there:
Simon had had a few telephone consultations and felt that they’re helpful when people are unsure whether they need to see a GP. They’re also good for getting blood test results, though the first time he had a telephone consultation he didn’t realise that the doctor might phone him later than the allocated time. Auberon had also had a few telephone consultations. He felt they were good because they can save people making a trip to the surgery if it isn’t really necessary. Amy recalled having a telephone consultation when she’d had problems with her gall bladder, which she thought were related to irritable bowel:
Many of the people we talked to, like Paula, Nikki and Aphra, had never heard of telephone consultations. Isaac and Louis had, but had never needed one themselves. Emma liked the idea of telephone consultations and felt they were good because people could speak to a GP first and then find out whether they need to go to the surgery or not. She felt there’d be fewer people going in for coughs and other minor problems. She also liked the idea of Skype consultations, and felt that it was important for GP practices to keep services up to date using modern technology:
Nikki, who’d had depression and self-harmed, had never heard of telephone consultations but felt they’d be good for people who can’t leave the house because of depression. She thought that they should be promoted more so that more young people would know about them.
Louis said that, whenever he’d needed to see the GP, he’d needed to be assessed, which could only be done in person. He preferred face to face appointments and felt they were more reassuring. Although Peter had never had a telephone consultation either, he felt that it could be hard to explain things over the phone and easier to show what’s wrong in person.
Jake hadn’t heard of telephone consultations either and wondered if they’d be confidential. He, like Gentian, felt he’d rather see the GP in person than speak to the doctor over the phone. Tagbo also felt that it was important to see the GP face to face because the problem could be serious but hard to diagnose over the phone.
Lucy preferred to see the GP in person because she’s ‘a worrier’ – she felt that she’d worry ‘that they’re just there laughing about me’ if she had a telephone consultation.

Vinay felt that a telephone service for young people having mental health issues could be helpful as it would allow anonymity. But he felt that face to face consultations can be better because ‘you can see if the person’s paying attention’ and not ‘half-listening’, otherwise ‘you could feel more frustrated and alone’. Joanna also preferred face to face consultations for mental health because telephone consultations didn’t allow GP or patient to see one another’s body language.
When Sophie needed to speak to a GP about mental health, she found it very hard to open up and talk about how she’d really been feeling. She felt that it might have been easier to talk over the phone or in writing. She said that writing things down can be helpful when it’s hard to talk, and that telephone consultations are good for conditions that aren’t physical. She would have liked one when she’d had depression.

Lucy felt that GP Skype consultations and telephone appointments would be better for people going through mental health problems. She also liked the idea of talking to a professional in an informal setting rather than at the surgery. Sarah was concerned that, although there should be ways of contacting GPs other than face to face consultations, the alternatives might mean less money being spent on health services.
There are also commercial websites selling telephone and online consultations with private GPs, but none of the people we talked to had used these.


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