Getting the most from your surgery

Non-urgent advice:

Think before you dial. If your problem is a real emergency – chest pain, collapse or a suspected stroke, dial 999.  If not, call your surgery to discuss what you need.

Avoid busy times, particularly Monday mornings. If your problem isn’t pressing, try not to call before 10.30am on any day. However, if you are requesting a home visit, you should join the morning rush: the earlier your practice knows about visits, the sooner it can allocate them.

Only request a visit if you, or the person you are concerned about is housebound. A doctor can see 4 or 5 patients in the surgery in the time it takes to do a home visit. 

Think ahead. People expect to book with their dentist or hairdresser at least a couple of weeks ahead; GP surgeries should be no different when it comes to routine appointments for procedures such as smears, blood-pressure checks and immunisations.

If your problem is urgent and you feel need to be seen quickly, that should always be possible. The practice will see urgent cases the same day, typically as “extras” during morning/afternoon surgery.

If you are not sure that your problem warrants an urgent slot, but can’t wait for a routine appointment the following week, ask the receptionist for advice from your doctor or nurse. 

If your query is related to a longstanding condition such as diabetes or asthma, why not ask to speak to the nurse you normally see in clinic.

Don’t abuse the system. If you cannot make an appointment, phone and cancel it so we can give it to someone else. (30 million appointments are wasted each year because of “no-shows”). Also be honest about your need for an urgent appointment; every GP is used to seeing people with an “urgent” verruca but this sort of abuse of the system makes receptionists wary.

Do you actually need to see a doctor? If it is a problem such as uncomplicated heartburn, hayfever or a cold, why not go direct to your pharmacist? Over-the-counter medicines can be cheaper than prescription fees and the pharmacist fees and the pharmacist can always refer you if they are concerned. 

Ask about the most efficient way to order and collect repeat prescriptions. 

Be assertive but polite. Working on reception is a tough job. Staff are there to help you, so give them a chance.

When you do eventually see the doctor, have your symptoms clear in your mind and share your concerns (lots of people Google their symptoms and part of our job is to reassure them their condition is not a serious as they suspect, hopefully). Please wear something sensible that will allow easy access if you need to be examined.