Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

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

The people we spoke to had many positive examples of the qualities they felt make a good GP. Here are the most important ones.

Good GPs are experienced and knowledgeable
Simon, who has juvenile arthritis, praised one of his GPs because he knew a lot about his condition, kept up-to-date with new treatments, and was very supportive. If Simon had any questions, he could leave a note at reception and the GP would get back to him with an answer. Simon felt that he had ‘personalised care’. The doctor also referred him to hospital when he had unusual symptoms, and pushed for tests and a diagnosis. Simon was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He felt that his GP went ‘the extra mile’ to help him whenever he could:
Good GPs communicate and listen

The importance of a friendly, welcoming approach and good communication skills was a very common theme. Young people said good GPs:

•    explain things in an easy to understand way – they don’t use a lot of medical jargon
•    are patient and understanding (not ‘patronising’ or ‘condescending’)
•    treat young people like an adult
•    are friendly, empathetic and easy to talk to
•    are calm, reassuring and come across as if they care
•    ask about you as a person (e.g. about school or hobbies)

Tagbo recalled that his GP knew the whole family and always asked about their lives. He felt that good doctors are in touch with their patients, comforting and polite.
Good GPs also:

•    explain the logic behind their decision, why they’re doing examinations, and the next steps
•    really listen to what the person is saying
For some people, good GPs:

•    have read your notes before they see you, they don’t read them in front of you
•    are honest even if they’re unsure what the problem is
•    are welcoming and professional
•    respect patients’ boundaries
•    are supportive
Aphra and Ambeya, who both cared for a parent with mental health issues, recalled feeling supported by their GP, who would have a family appointment every now and then. Aphra and her brothers would see the GP separately to discuss whether the doctor could support them in any way or put them in touch with other services that could. Ambeya liked these family assessments and felt that the GP understood and was willing to help.

Good GPs also:

•    ask how you are instead of what the problem is
•    are caring and want to help
John pointed out that good GPs are also objective and Vinay said that, while listening and empathy are important, he appreciated that doctors need to keep a bit of emotional distance for their own sakes.

Does the gender and age of a GP matter?

For a lot of people the gender of a GP only mattered when it came to sexual health, and some even then felt that all doctors are professional and it didn’t make a difference.
Ish said he always felt ‘more welcomed’ by women. Ambeya and Joanna both preferred female GPs because they felt more comfortable talking to someone of the same sex, especially when it came to things like periods. Siobhan also preferred a female GP but because she found them easier to talk to and more open.
Louis felt that, although the age of the GP didn’t matter as long as they were knowledgeable, a younger GP ‘might connect more’ as they’re closer in age. Emma felt that younger GPs were trained to communicate better, and Rowan that they were more approachable. Several people, like Louis and Paula, though, thought that older GPs would be more experienced and, based on his past experiences, Aaron preferred older GPs who’d seen lots of different problems before.

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