Trying to secure an appointment with your GP can be difficult sometimes, with slots filling up very quickly each day.

The mad rush to call your doctor surgery's switch board when the clock strikes 8am can be stressful, especially when you are not feeling 100 per cent or have a wee one who is under the weather. And sometimes, even after calling as soon as possible and waiting in a queue for a while, all the appointments are taken up by the time you are through to an operator.

However, a GP has revealed some tips as to the best way of actually talking to a health professional when in need. Writing in The Times, Dr Mark Porter explained that he was left horrified at a survey recently when he found out older patients faced a traumatic experience when trying to access GP surgeries, as write Teesside Live.

He said: “A recent survey of older people’s experiences accessing GP surgeries had me squirming in my seat. And this quote from the director of the campaign group Silver Voices, who commissioned the survey, was the trigger for my discomfort: “The family doctor is becoming an elusive species, with many hoops to be negotiated before an audience is finally granted to the patient.”

According to the survey, three-quarters of those asked said they found it difficult to get a face-to-face appointment with their GP. Most of these participants said they had been offered a telephone consultation instead as well as some stating they had been asked to submit their request online while trying to get through to their surgery's reception.

Many said they sometimes give up and look for alternative care methods instead, with one in five stating they had resorted to their local emergency department. Further, one in three said they had booked to see a private GP.

female gp with patient
Many are unable to secure a GP appointment and turn to alternative care methods instead

Dr Porter said: “My practice has historically had one of the highest patient satisfaction scores in England, and we pride ourselves on seeing all urgent cases the same day, but we are slipping. We can still cope, just about, with urgent requests, but over the past few years waits for routine appointments have gone from a few days to a few weeks.”

The doctor added that the main issue was demand, with many surgeries having far more patients that appointments available with GPs.

The GP also explained some of his tips for booking appointments at surgeries that use a mixed system.

  • If you want a routine appointment — for a problem such as a longstanding arthritic knee, or to discuss HRT — do try to use the NHS app or online booking system if your surgery has one
  • Alternatively try calling outside the busiest periods (8am to 10am and 2pm to 3pm at my practice). Waits will typically be two weeks or more
  • If you feel your problem is urgent don’t feel fobbed off with a call back from a GP. It’s typically the fastest way to access care, and I often tell people to come straight in once I have triaged their request
  • If it is very urgent — such as chest pain or a suspected stroke — don’t call your GP. Dial 999
  • No matter how ill or angry you are, please don’t take it out on the receptionist. They are under a lot of pressure, and being polite is more likely to get you what you want
  • Last, if offered an appointment please turn up —one in ten people didn’t in September — or call to cancel so we can offer it to someone else

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