Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Before you visit
  3. During your visit
  4. Key questions to ask
  5. After your visit
  6. Eight top tips
  7. More information

Introduction 

This page is to help you make the most of your GP appointment. It includes tips on how to prepare, what to ask and how to remember the information given to you.

It is for anyone who would like to make the most of their time with their GP.

Other ways to access medical advice and support include:

  • Going to a pharmacy for advice and treatment for minor conditions
  • Asking to see a practice nurse
  • Visiting a specialist
  • Calling NHS 111
  • Visiting nhs.uk for medical advice for people aged 5 and over
  • Visiting a sexual health service for testing and contraception advice.

You can also read about your health issue or symptoms using a trusted source. This could be a specialist support charity or general database.

For example:

Before you visit

Many GPs limit appointments to 10 minutes. There may also be a limit on the number of issues you can discuss. Being prepared can help you make the most of your appointment.

Think about your main concern

Think about your main reason for booking the appointment before your visit. This does not have to be a physical symptom. It could be an emotional concern.

There is no reason to be embarrassed. GPs see lots of people with lots of conditions. Any information you share is confidential.

Note your symptoms

The note can be written down or recorded on your mobile phone. Try to include:

  • When your symptoms began
  • What they are
  • If they follow a pattern
  • How they impact your life or family
  • Issues relating to those close to you that may be impacting you.

Symptoms can include pain, changes to your eating habits, changes to your energy levels and your general mood.

If you have a family history of a condition which matches these symptoms note that as well.

Top tip: Keep track of your symptoms over 24 hours to see if you can spot a pattern. A pattern could be your symptoms getting worse late at night or immediately after eating.

Note any medication

Make a note of any medicines you are taking or treatments you have tried. This includes treatments for other conditions, including physiotherapy and herbal remedies.

Prepare some questions

You may find it helpful to make a short list of questions before your visit. See section 4 for some suggestions.

Consider a double appointment

If you feel you have too many things to discuss in one appointment, you can ask to make a double appointment.

During your visit

Take support

If you feel you need it, you can take a relative, friend or carer to your appointment for support. They may also be able to help you remember or understand what has been said.

Discuss your main concern first. Do not feel you have to justify being there or leave your main concern to the end.

Be honest

It is important that you are honest with your GP about your lifestyle. For example, how much you drink or exercise.

You should also be honest about your concerns.

Ask for a chaperone

If you need an intimate examination, you can ask for a chaperone or for the physical examination to be done by another doctor at another time.

Ask questions

There are some suggested questions for your GP appointment on the next section. They are grouped into four main areas: symptoms, tests, treatments and general questions.

Ask about anything you are unsure of. If you do not understand, ask before leaving the room.

Get a contact

You may think of questions to ask after your appointment. Find out who you can contact to get these answered.

You can also find out the names of any support groups providing reliable information.

Key questions to ask

Below are some questions which can help you make the most of your GP appointment.

These questions are just a guide. If you feel there is something else you want to know, ask.

Top tip: You have limited time during your GP appointment. For more detailed answers choose a maximum of five questions.

Questions about treatments Questions about tests
What is the likely treatment? Do I need any tests?
How long will I need the treatment for? When will they be done?
Are there any side effects? What will they involve?
Will it interfere with other medication? Where will I have them done?
How will it fit in with my life? Will I need more tests after that?
Are there other options? How will I get the results?
What happens if I do nothing? What should I do if I do not get my results?
When will they be reviewed?
What if i cannot cope?

General questions Questions about symptoms
What support is available for me? What do my symptoms mean?
Should I make changes to my lifestyle? How long will they last?
Where can I get more information? What should I do if they get worse?
Do you have any written information?
What happens next?

After your visit 

Don’t be afraid to ask more questions

You might not remember every detail of your GP appointment. This is normal.

If there is anything you are unsure of talk to the practice nurse or phone the GP.

Continue to record your symptoms

Keep track of your symptoms after your visit. This is useful because:

  • It can help you see improvements
  • It can help you see if your symptoms are becoming worse or more frequent
  • If you need to go back to the GP you will be prepared

Your GP should give you an idea of how long a treatment will take to work. If your symptoms last longer than you think is normal or you are concerned, contact your surgery for advice.

Raise small concerns early

If you are unhappy with your GP you can ask to switch GPs, raise your concerns, make a complaint or change practices.

It is usually worth discussing your concerns with your GP or practice manager first.

Seek further support

You can ask other healthcare professionals about a wide range of health problems and treatments. For example, pharmacists and hospital specialists.

There are also dedicated support groups and charities for almost every medical condition.

Top tip: Look for organisations which are recommended by the NHS or your GP surgery. This will help make sure the information is reliable.

Eight top tips

1. Seek advice before your visit

Your GP surgery may be able to help you over the phone. Your local pharmacist can also offer advice.

2. Decide if you need to see a specific GP

Do you want to see someone as quickly as possible or would you prefer a GP who knows your history personally?

3. Be prepared

Record your symptoms. Make a note of any questions. Decide what the most important thing affecting your health is right now.

4. Take support if you feel you need it

This could be a family member, friend or carer.

5. Ask questions

Unclear about any information you have been given? Ask again.

6. Find out who to contact

Ask for contact information in case you have any more questions.

7. Raise small concerns early

If you are unhappy with your treatment raise your concerns as soon as possible.

8. Have a plan

Have a ‘treatment plan’ in place when you leave the practice

More information

The Patients Association has only included organisations on this list that we believe are professional and reputable. Please note we are not responsible for the content published on these external sites. 

Useful contacts

111.nhs.uk – urgent medical advice for anyone over five years old

healthwatch.co.uk – advice and support for patients

nhs.uk – what to ask your GP, check your symptoms, information on treatments

patient.info – information on health issues or symptoms

You can also check your GP surgery website for information on special clinics.

Sources

Source material for the information contained in this leaflet is available on request.

Contact the Patients Association helpline

The Patients Association offers a free national helpline providing specialist information and advice to help patients make sense of their health and social care.  

Patients can talk directly to trained advisers in strict confidence about any concerns, questions or general experiences they have regarding the NHS and social care systems.  

The helpline is open from 9.30 am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and calls outside these times are returned as soon as possible during opening hours. 

If you would like to contact the helpline, please call free on 0800 345 7115, or visit the Patients Association helpline page on our website for more information.