Getting the best out of visiting your GP

General practitioners (GPs) have on average more than 1,500 patients in their practice, and work at least 80 hours a week. For this reason, it is important for you to make full use of your time when you go to see the doctor. The Irish College of General Practitioners — www.icgp.ie — make the following recommendations on how to get the best out of visiting your GP:

Being prepared

  • When going for a visit to the doctor it might be useful to think ahead - this could save you time.
  • Letting the doctor know the reason for your visit in advance - for example, if you need vaccinations, a routine check up or a repeat prescription - helps the doctor to make the necessary preparations and saves you time.
  • If your doctor operates an appointment system, use it and make an appointment.
  • For an appointment on the same day, ring as early as possible.
  • If the reason for the call is not urgent let the secretary know and she will give you a suitable time.
  • Try to tell the doctor the main reason for your visit at the start if the consultation.
  • Where a number of things are on your mind, it might be useful to write these down beforehand. However, remember that the doctor may not be able to deal fully with everything on this visit and may ask you to come back at another time.

Fear and embarrassment

  • If there is something that you are unclear about when your doctor is explaining your condition or advising you about treatment, do not be afraid to ask. The doctor will be happy to explain the matter again. If you are uncomfortable about anything the doctor asks you, do not be afraid to say so. The visit is for you and your needs and you are in control of what is discussed and carried out.
  • If you have any difficulties or worries before or during your visit to the doctor, for example, problems of hearing or sight, or if you are shy or embarrassed about talking about any matter, be assured that your doctor will understand and will make every effort to help you.
  • You are welcome to ask a family member or a friend to be present during the visit if you feel this would be helpful.

House calls

  • It is better, if at all possible, for you to come to the surgery. You may be able to get there quicker and the doctor can give you a better service in the surgery where all the necessary facilities are to hand. If you are in doubt whether a house call is necessary, the nurse or doctor will be happy to talk to you on the phone.
  • If a house call is necessary, remember: Give as much information as possible, give an accurate address, clear directions and a telephone contact number if you can. Time saved this way may save lives.
  • Requests for non-emergency house calls should be made early in the morning.

Examinations and procedures

  • Where you think that the doctor will need to examine you or carry out a procedure, think about what to wear. For example, if your blood pressure will be taken, don’t wear tight sleeves, or if you are bringing your baby to be examined, dress the child in clothes that can be easily removed, this will save time and cause less stress to the child.
  • If you have worries or are anxious about any examination or procedure, talk to the doctor or the practice nurse about this and they will be happy to help you.
  • If you require an intimate examination and would prefer to have someone else present, such as a family member, a friend or the practice nurse, please say so and the doctor will be happy to oblige.
  • You can be sure that everything you say to your doctor, the nurse or the practice secretary is treated as confidential. Information will not be given to any person, including other family members, without your permission.

If you’re not happy

If there is anything you are unhappy about let your doctor, the nurse or secretary know right away. They will be pleased to hear any suggestions you might have about their services and how they can best look after you and your family.

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