Imperial College London

Five ways to get the most out of your doctor's appointment



With GPs in the UK spending an average of 8-10 minutes with each patient, it's important to know how to get the information you need.

Here GP Dr Sonia Saxena, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, suggests how to make the most of your appointment.

Don't go empty-handed

Before you see your doctor think carefully about what you want to get out of your appointment. Write down the questions that are most important to you.

Be direct

As time is short, be clear about what you want the doctor to do, such as refer you to a specialist or prescribe a different medication. Be assertive if you need to, but always be polite.  If your request isn't possible, ask the doctor to explain why.

Bring a friend

Research suggests patients forget half of what they are told by the doctor when they're stressed. Take someone you trust with you to remember what is said, or help occupy or entertain your child if needed.

Repeat if necessary

Ask the doctor to repeat and explain anything you don’t understand, such as instructions for taking medication. If you're not clear - write it down or ask if there is any written information or a website you can refer to.

Make sure you are clear on what happens next, and whether you need to make further appointments.

Check your safety net

Make sure to ask about what doctors call 'safety netting' - find out what you do if things don't improve, or get worse - and who you contact. In the UK, GP surgeries always have an emergency out-of-hours contact number, and there will always be someone who can see you.





Kate Wighton

Kate Wighton
Communications and Public Affairs

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