How do you maximise your appointment with your GP?

You can see your GP for an infinite number of reasons, from the benign and the harmless, to the malignant and the hurtful. Because of this, every time you step into the consultation, you come packed with a different set of emotions and agenda. Yet whatever that may be, the goal for you is to achieve it in a shared partnership.

So, here are four steps to maximise any GP appointment:

Have a clear idea of your agenda

Understanding your symptoms is not always easy. After all, they may be complex, non-specific or confusing. Alternatively, it might be really simple. Either way, to keep on point, ask yourself two key questions:

What am I really worried about? This can be quite a straightforward or sometimes more complex question. A common one is a concern over developing cancer, often triggered by someone close to you developing it. As such you present with a symptom which the GP may reassure you over. But, what you actually want to hear them say is: “This is not cancer.”

What do I want to leave with? You have ten minutes with your GP and, you may well have been waiting weeks to see them. As such, be clear what your exit strategy is – what do you want? It may be simple advice, reassurance, or to start the pathway to getting a referral to a specialist. Whatever it is, vocalise it early so your GP is aware of it.

Understand what your GP is trying to achieve for you

Your GP wants to help you. But they want to help you in the right way – which can sometimes go against the grain of how you thought they were going to. Their mindset is threefold. First, what is the patient asking me? Second, what is the likely diagnosis? Third, how can I best manage this? You can make their information-mining easier by providing as much as you can in the best way you understand it. This challenge increases when there are multiple issues. Don’t be surprised if your GP prioritises ones over others and that you may not get through them all. Sadly, they can’t bend time.

Zooming out of your own consultation

Sometimes you may see your GP and they look fresh as a daisy. Sometimes you see them and they look like they’ve been steamrollered, picked up, shaken out and dumped in front of you – crushed. That’s because every clinic for them may include elements of life that would drain anyone – cancer, domestic abuse, suicide. And this is done back to back with no pause in between patients. Sometimes it’s genuinely hard to hide that all behind the eyes when they then see you. Although they will be trying.

Five essentials for any consultation

1. Write down your problems on paper with a timeline of events.
2. If more than two problems, try and book a double appointment.
3. Wear the right clothing – the skinny jeans will be coming off if you’ve got a knee problem.
4. Do not avoid pain relief just to show how much the problem hurts.
5. Never ever apologise for ‘wasting your GP’s time’ – they are there for all worries and concerns.