Health: GPs back guide to help patients get the most from their appointments

GPs in the region are endorsing a national guide which helps patients get the most out of their doctors’ appointment.

The Patient Guide to GP Services has been produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and can be downloaded from NHS Choices

It provides a range of useful information; from choosing and registering with a surgery and understanding the different services that are available, through to making appointments and getting the most from your consultation.

Your GP and their team is generally your first point of contact to help you to manage your health and prevent illness, help with dealing with common medical problems, through to helping you to live with long term conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

Some also carry out practical procedures such as minor surgery or refer you on to specialist services if you need more specific tests and support.

You don’t always have to visit your doctor specifically; Many GPs offer repeat prescription services that don’t require a doctor’s appointment and some surgeries offer online appointment booking and cancellation options so you don’t always need to call the receptionist.

Don’t forget you can also find a wealth of information on your GP practice website. Pharmacists are also a very useful source of information if you have a query about medication.

The Guide recommends a number of hints and tips to support the most effect ways to talk to your GP or practice nurse:

l Write down the key questions you wish to ask before you visit the practice and think about what you want to get from the appointment - is it reassurance, or some medication?

lIf you are already receiving medication write down the medicines and pills or take them to the appointment with you.

l Make a note of when you started to feel unwell, your symptoms and any other contributing factors such as a recent holiday or injury.

l Ask a friend or family member to come with you if you are worried or nervous about your appointment or explaining any symptoms to the GP

lMake sure you share all information with your GP. Sometimes it is the small details that help inform the doctor about your possible condition.

l Be as open and honest as you can and don’t be embarrassed. GPs are trained to deal with the intimate and uncomfortable conditions, the chances are you’re not the first patient to talk about the issue with them so try not to worry.

l Do not be afraid to ask the GP to repeat what she or he has told you and repeat back your und erstanding of what has been said to avoid any misunderstandings.

lExpect your GP to ask you about your lifestyle including things like how much alcohol you drink and if you smoke, our lifestyle can have a major affect on our health and play a part in many illnesses, from high blood pressure, through to some forms of cancer so its important that this is covered in your consultation.

l Ask your GP to write down anything you don’t understand and make a note of the consultation after the appointment.

l Make sure you fully understand what the next steps are before you leave the room. If you are feeling ill, you will need to leave with an idea of how long you should expect to feel this way, or how long it takes for any medicine to start working. If you are informed, you won’t worry unnecessarily or expect to get better too quickly and end up going back to your doctor again.