Making best use of the appointments system
Like many other practices in the UK, we work to a 10 minute consultation interval. This 10 minutes includes meeting and greeting time, time for record keeping and administration e.g. issuing prescriptions as well as face to face consultation time. We consider this 10 minute period to be less than ideal for many complex situations but, given the resources available (and in particular the number of general practitioners in the UK), we are obliged to work to the best of our ability within these constraints.
There are two overall types of appointments; acute and routine.
Much of our work is concerned with the management of long term conditions (approximately 80+ %) which is coordinated through the use of review dates which appear on all repeat prescriptions. A much smaller proportion of our work is concerned with acute or semi-acute problems.
We try and see any patient with a problem that they consider to be acute on that same day. We retain a specific number of appointments for such situations.
When you ring for an appointment the receptionists have been trained to ask a few general questions to ascertain the urgency of the situation. Examples of a situation deemed to be urgent would be a suspected chest infection or acute pain. If your situation is considered to be acute you will be offered the next available acute appointment - please note this may not necessarily be with your usual or preferred doctor. If the receptionist is unsure about how to respond in allocating an acute appointment, then they will liaise with a doctor for advice or take a telephone number so that the duty doctor can phone you back to assess your situation.
If your situation is considered to be less acute you will be offered the next available routine appointment. This will usually be within a few days. If you need to see a doctor with a specific area of expertise e.g. contraception, this may mean a slightly longer delay depending on their availability. If you request to see a named doctor then you may have to wait longer compared with seeing the first available doctor.
Much of our work is concerned with the management of long term conditions e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Any patient with a long term condition who is on medication will have a review date which is recorded on their repeat prescriptions. Reviews are often referred to as medication reviews but are in fact an opportunity for the doctor and you to review the overall care of your long term condition as well as review your medication. Rather than trying to book for an appointment "on the day", we would encourage you to plan ahead so that not only will you be able to see your preferred doctor, but you will usually be able to book an appointment at a time and date that fits with your other commitments.
If you consider that you have a complex problem that cannot adequately be assessed in a ten minute consultation please ask the receptionist for a double i.e. 20 minute appointment. Please note that if there are no back to back consultation intervals available this may require you to wait slightly longer for your appointment.
Efficient use of time during your consultation
Please try and prepare for your consultation so that you can get as much out of the consultation time as possible. For example, consider what you wish to achieve at the consultation. It may help to write down a check list of areas that you wish to discuss. While the doctor will try and cover as many of your concerns as possible within the time available there may be occasions in which your problems cannot be fully assessed and you may be requested to book a further appointment.
For further advice about how to make best use of your appointment click here.
You and your doctor - Information from the Patient Association about making effective use of your consultation time.