Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

What makes a good consultation with the GP?: young people’s views and experiences

Here, people talk about their views and experiences of a good consultation (appointment) with the GP. This includes their views on:

•    information
•    discussing treatment options together
•    time to talk
•    seeing the same GP every appointment
•    getting tests and referrals done quickly
•    a GP that listens, speaks directly to the patient, and takes concerns seriously
•    a GP that’s relaxed and informal

There were some very positive experiences, and some young people said they’d never had a bad experience of a GP appointment. A good consultation involved having a doctor that they found understanding, approachable and knowledgeable. The topics below were also important.

The people we spoke to valued having the information they needed from their GP in an easy to understand way, including information on why a medication was being prescribed, possible side effects and, when relevant, leaflets or website addresses. Shane was happy with the information his GP gave him about mental health and local counselling services, which included leaflets and web addresses. Isaac felt that the information his doctor gave him when he needed a mole on his arm removed was ‘enough...the facts were there’. Lara recalled that her appointments had usually been good and she’d always got the information she needed in the ten minute consultations.
Discussing treatment options together

Paula praised the support she had from her GP who talked to her about various different options for acne. Her decision to try a cream instead of more antibiotics was made together with the doctor. Shane was also pleased when he and his GP looked at treatment options on the computer screen together and talked about them. Siobhan and Sarah both felt that GPs should give patients all the available options when it comes to medication and talking therapies (e.g. counselling) for depression.
Time to talk

Not feeling rushed during the consultation helped people feel that they were being listened to and given the time to talk, and then they could leave with the information they needed. Emma found it frustrating when consultations felt rushed and the doctors came across as if they were ‘counting down the seconds until you get out’. Auberon, who often saw the GP about mental health, said that some doctors rushed the appointment but the doctor that he liked, and did his best to see every appointment, booked him in for double appointments.
Shane also saw his GP regularly about mental health and said that consultations with his preferred GP often lasted around 20 minutes, which was enough time to talk and not feel rushed. Sarah, who saw the GP about anxiety and depression, praised the doctor for always making time for patients. He had ‘a reputation’ for running over time but was worth waiting to see.
Seeing the same GP every appointment

Paula and Louis, who rarely went to the doctor’s, didn’t mind which GP they saw, though Louis felt that seeing the same one does help build ‘more of a relationship’. Hannah was happy to see any available doctor because she felt they were all professional. She preferred seeing the doctor she’d seen throughout her life, though, because he knew the whole family and she trusted his expertise. Fran also liked seeing the GP who’d known her since she was a child, and knew her medical history and the medications she takes for psychosis.
People who wanted to talk to the doctor about mental health often liked seeing the same doctor every time too, someone who knew them slightly and who they felt comfortable with. Simon and Jalé, who were living with long-term conditions, felt that seeing the same GP as often as possible saved them having to explain their story again to different doctors. Emma, who has type 1 diabetes, didn’t mind seeing different GPs because ‘they’re all doctors’ but still tried to get appointments with her preferred GP who she felt more at ease with.
Simon saw the same GP as much as possible and preferred to wait to get an appointment with that doctor whenever he could. Emma and Jalé believed that they’d have to wait longer if they wanted to see their preferred doctor every time, so sometimes saw a different one if they needed an appointment quickly. Jalé also felt that it could be worrying having the same GP every time if the doctor didn’t listen. In these cases, she thought it would be good to see another doctor and have a second opinion.

Getting tests and referrals done quickly

Simon and Aphra felt that seeing a GP who knew them also helped when it came to getting tests done quickly if something was wrong, getting referred if necessary, and making sure they got their results.
When Sarah had bad stomach cramps and diarrhoea for around a week, she went to see the GP. When tests showed she had campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, the doctor acted quickly.
A GP that listens, speaks directly to the patient, and takes concerns seriously

For Aphra a good consultation involved being listened to. When she went to see the university GP, she told her about symptoms that she thought could be a chest infection. The GP felt it was a cold and then asked her if she wanted contraception. Aphra felt that the GP was making assumptions about what she wanted.
Tagbo also felt that a good consultation involved having a GP that listened and explained information in a clear and concise way. Feeling respected and taken seriously was also important, and being spoken to directly. When Isaac was younger, he’d had appointments that had left him feeling annoyed because the GP had spoken to the adult that went with him instead of to him. He was happier with the appointment he’d had most recently when he was around 16 or 17 and went on his own.

A GP that’s relaxed and informal

Shane’s preferred GP introduced herself to him by her first name, which immediately helped him feel more at ease. Sarah also recalled how the GP in the village she’d lived in introduced himself and asked how she was rather than what was wrong. Being relaxed and comfortable with a GP was important to Shane, Nikki, Sophie and other people who wanted to talk about mental health. Siobhan felt a bit uncomfortable talking to GPs and said, ‘I find it difficult to talk in face-to-face situations. And doctors are always in a suit and tie. And that’s quite daunting I think. I feel like it’s going to a teacher sometimes.’ A few other people, like Tagbo and Hazzan, also felt that it was helpful when the GP came across as relaxed, informal and ‘try and make it as casual as possible’.


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