Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Waiting time: for an appointment and in the surgery waiting room

There’s no set time within which patients should be given an appointment to see the GP. Whether someone phones in or books an appointment in person, they might not get one very quickly because the surgery is busy. Lucy and Winston often got appointments at a time that was convenient for them. For Emma, though, it was common to wait over a week for a non-urgent appointment.
Young people waited different lengths of time to get an appointment, depending on how busy their local practice (surgery) was, and people had very different perceptions of what was a short or long wait. The surgery Ambeya was registered with was often so busy that she wouldn’t get an appointment for three or four weeks. If she wanted to see the doctor that day, she said she’d have to say that it’s an emergency. These days she preferred looking up her symptoms online and getting a natural remedy than seeing the GP. Ambeya pointed out that long waits to see a GP can be inefficient for the NHS if it forces people to go to Accident and Emergency (A&E) instead.
Jalé did her best to get appointments either before school or in the afternoon if she finished early. Lots of people preferred not to miss lessons if they were at school, college or university but it wasn’t always possible to get an appointment at these times. Ish found it hard to take time off to see the GP now that he was working, particularly as appointments often ran late. He, like other people, wished that his local surgery had longer opening hours or opened at the weekends as well.
Ish felt that appointments were available at a time that suited GPs more than patients, while Siobhan noted that it was often hard to get an appointment time that suited her – she was revising for exams, applying for university, looking for a job, and doing voluntary work.
Auberon was on an enhanced care plan. He’d been in hospital and under the care of a psychiatrist because of severe mental health issues. These included depression and self-harm. His care plan meant that he should be seen by a GP on the day he wants an appointment. That didn’t always happen, though, and the longest he had to wait was three days. 

Waiting in the surgery waiting room
At the surgery patients check in with a receptionist or on a touchscreen, and wait until it’s their turn to see the GP. If a surgery’s very busy or there have been lots of emergencies, appointments might be running late. For Paula it was common to wait half an hour to see the GP. Rowan also waited a while but said a screen in the waiting room told patients who was before them and how long they could expect to wait. This wasn’t everyone’s experience, though. Emma, for example, wished that receptionists or the monitor would tell patients how long they might have to wait and why. She found that ‘not being given an explanation I think is the most frustrating part’.
Having waited a long time to see the GP, Jalé sometimes felt ‘brushed off’ if the appointment then felt short and rushed. She once waited around two hours because of emergencies:
Cancelling and missing appointments
Patients are responsible for cancelling any appointments they’re unable to attend in reasonable time so that someone else can benefit from the appointment slot.
What to do when local surgery GPs are unavailable
Sometimes all the GPs in the surgery are booked when a patient wants an appointment. There are several options in these situations, including out-of-hours services and going to the nearest walk-in centre if there is one.


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