Doctor in gown with stethoscope

Communicating with your GP – 10 tips to help

GP and patient consultationDo you find communicating with your GP a struggle? To help you get the most from your GP experience, I thought I would compile a list of things to report on to your GP.

Recently I was talking to a GP receptionist who told me that on the Tuesday after the August Bank Holiday, their city centre practice took over 3,000 calls. Yes 3K!

Then speaking to a fitness guru, she told me of a telephone conversation between a GP and patient where the GP had got totally the wrong idea of what was wrong with them. This was born from a lack of knowledge on the part of the patient regarding their anatomy. This highlights the importance of communicating with your GP accurately.

More and more it seems that patients are expected to present to the GP with a self-diagnosis, but this can be very dangerous.

Once you get your 10 minutes with your GP, it is a good idea to get your thoughts together beforehand. Remember, try not to jump to any form of self-diagnosis.  Below is NOT a comprehensive list of things to consider and additional things will be relevant in some cases and not all of these in others.

Let’s start by asking yourself these questions

  1. Which part of your body is affected?

Look at a picture beforehand especially if you are talking about joints. The anatomical hip is at the top of your leg where the leg elastic of your pants is. The fleshy bit of your bottom is your buttocks or glutes area. The bony bit that sits just below your waist is the top of your pelvis. Locating where your pain actually is, can be difficult as we generally refer to all these areas as our ‘hips’ when they are not. There are three areas to your spine neck / cervical, thoracic / mid back, lumbar / low back.

  1. How long has it been going on?

Chronic more than 12 weeks: acute just a few days: sub-acute 1 week (ish) to 12 weeks.

  1. What started it?
  2. What level of pain?

Mild: Moderate: severe. Give it a number out of 10 and relate it to the worst pain you can imagine being 10. Tell the GP what that pain was.

  1. What are the symptoms?

Hot / cold : Type of pain – sharp, dull, achy, shooting: Cough – chesty, dry, tickly;

  1. When is it worse?

Which part of the day: Is it associated with an activity: Do certain positions aggravate it.

  1. What makes it worse / better?

What have you tried already?

  1. What does it look like?

Sore / itchy: Dry / wet: What colour: Swollen: Bruised: Lumpy:

  1. Does it smell?
  2. What are you hoping for?

Prescription: Imaging: Referral: Advice


Additional things to consider…

When you deal with emergency medics don’t forget that they are rushed off their feet mostly and semantics of the English language are not foremost on their minds. The phrase ‘see / go back to your GP’ can mean get a telephone consult or you need a GP to physically set their eyes upon you. Make sure to clarify what they are asking you to do and when you call your surgery emphasise what the medic has instructed. Also, if you need a face to face, why and how urgent it really is.

Our NHS system is a fantastic asset to us in the UK. It would be an injustice if we end up having to seek private health care insurance like the USA and other countries.

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