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Get the best from your Doctor!

GP reception

As Which? advises, don’t think of your GP surgery receptionist as ‘guard dog’. Think of them as helping you find the best person for you. Tell the receptionist what you want, so fewer wasted appointments.

It’s useful to ask to see the same Doctor again, if you are dealing with same health problem.

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As most doctor appointments are short, work out your health needs and questions before your visit and write them down. What are the 3 things you most want to discuss at this appointment? Tell the doctor what they are at the start. e.g. a list of your symptoms you want the doctor to address, and any thoughts on causes. Are things going on in your life affecting your health, perhaps short of money, housing problem, etc… explain. Are you worried about a possible disease, e.g. cancer? Any online health protection you have read about that sounds useful? Any questions in your personal healthcare plan? Take it with you.

Treat the appointment as a shared talk, and let the doctor know what’s important to you. What result are you hoping for?


If you did not try what the doctor advised you last time, or have not taken your medicines as prescribed, or have not changed your diet as recommended, be honest!

Ask the doctor to tell you what to do if things get worse, or if you get extra symptoms. Also ask about the possible side effects of any medicines the he/she prescribes for you. How and when will I receive any tests results? Will you write down for me any actions you think I need to take, or should I do so?

Antibiotics:  Ask have you been prescribed too many?  Research in the British Medical Journal in 2019 found that a lot of antibiotic prescriptions go on for longer than recommended in guidelines. The UK NHS National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidance on which antibiotics to use, and for how long for different illnesses

As The Times put it in July 2021, ” the prospect of seeing your GP by phone and video consultations is here to stay. With a huge backlog in the number of people needing referrals, it is important to know when a health niggle is worth pursuing. Here is an example of one of the common symptoms that are probably nothing, but should never be ignored.

Continuing fatigue
In a survey of 15,000 people, 20% said that they had fatigue lasting a month or more. If it does not go away with normal levels of rest and exercise, do not ignore it. Fatigue can be a sign of anaemia, thyroid problems, heart problems, diabetes, coeliac disease or cancer. It can also indicate anxiety or depression.

Any niggle that doesn’t go away

If you have a symptom that is whispering for attention rather than shouting, but it isn’t going away, get it looked at. Michelle Mitchell, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, says, “It’s important to listen to your body and tell your doctor if you notice something that’s unusual for you or isn’t going away, because diagnosing cancer at an early stage can make all the difference.”

Even more importantly, once you have seen a doctor, keep monitoring your symptoms, even if the doctor doesn’t seem particularly concerned. “It’s partly the patient’s responsibility to keep asking themselves, ‘Has it really gone away, has it mostly gone away or is it still there?”
“People don’t realise that they are allowed to call the hospital and say, ‘Where are my test results?’ or, ‘Actually, Doctor, my symptoms haven’t gone away, I think I need to see you again.”

page updated 06 January 2022.  © 2022 by social enterprise™ Ltd.

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