Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Who should book the GP appointment?

All GP surgeries work slightly differently in terms of their opening hours and the types of appointments they offer. It’s best to get in touch with the surgery or look at their website to see how a particular surgery works. Most offer appointment booking over the phone, in person and, increasingly, online. How long it can take to get an appointment can vary. If the problem is urgent, the GP should see the patient as soon as possible. There may be a longer wait if someone wishes to see a specific doctor in a group practice (surgery), or for appointment slots outside normal working hours. 

Anyone can book an appointment with a GP if they feel able to do so. They don’t have to be over 16 and all consultations (appointments) are confidential (private). Appointments with the GP are confidential regardless of a person’s age. Doctors and nurses have very strict rules on confidentiality so that everything a patient tells them, their personal details and medical records are kept completely private. However, a GP might encourage a patient to tell others (like a parent) about the problem, or they can speak to them on the patient’s behalf if they’d prefer. This is because sometimes it’s important for those looking after a person to know what’s going on as they might be able to help or support them. The doctor might encourage a young person to tell their parent or guardian, but should respect a patient’s wishes if they don’t want to. If a patient is under 16 and doesn’t want to involve their parents, the doctor can treat them without telling their parents as long as the young person fully understands the choices they’re making. In exceptional cases, though, like when a health professional thinks a young person might be in serious danger, they may need to pass information to police or social services. Even then they must talk to the person first before they tell anyone else, unless that would put someone at risk of harm. 

Young people who were still at school often said that a parent, usually their mum, made the GP appointment if they needed one. Lara, for example, said that her mum was usually the first person she spoke to if she had a health problem. For Kyle it was his dad or grandmother that usually made the appointments and one of them went with him to see the doctor. Like several other people, Kyle said he wouldn’t mind making his own appointments if he had to.
Some younger people, like Rowan, occasionally made their own appointments, depending on how busy their mum or dad was. Ambeya’s mum was often ill so her dad usually made appointments for Ambeya and her two younger brothers when they were younger. After the age of 16, she made them herself. When Winston went into foster care at the age of 15, he started making his own appointments and going to see the GP by himself. Shane had made his own appointments for quite a while – his mum was a single, working mum so he’d phone the GP himself whenever he needed to, while Simon – who had two long-term conditions – started booking appointments himself around the age of 12. He wanted to be in charge of looking after his own health:

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