Visiting your doctor in difficult times

One in five patients now has to wait at least 15 days to see a GP in England, NHS figures have revealed.

Just under 5m of the 27.1m appointments at GPs’ surgeries in October involved waiting anywhere between 15 and 28 or more days to see a doctor or practice nurse. Patients are finding it increasingly difficult booking appointments with their doctor in the U.K., or accessing support from statutory services.

If this sounds like you, or if you are planning a visit to your GP soon to talk about mental health, here are some suggestions:

Ask for continuity of care. It’s important that you see the same doctor when you visit (where possible) especially in the early days so that they can monitor your progress effectively. You can request this.

Plan your appointments in advance. If there tends to be a three week wait (or more) to see your doctor, or if you’re told to ring first thing and still can’t get an appointment, ask if you can book a few ahead. You can always cancel them if you don’t need them (obviously try to give the surgery notice if you can). You should be seeing your doctor regularly, especially in the first few weeks if you’ve been diagnosed with poor mental health or prescribed medication.

Book medication reviews (if prescribed). You can do this with the practice nurse if necessary but this is particularly important if you’ve just been prescribed medication, or have discussed a lower or higher dose. Always check with your GP about the possible side effects to expect if they apply.

Write a list of what you want to say and/or take someone with you if you’re worried you’ll forget something.

Ask them what help is available locally, eg peer support groups, wellbeing courses, help with finances like Citizens Advice and help for carers too.

Reach out to organisations like Healthwatch England in your area. They have a team of volunteers who want to hear your patient experiences, especially if the standard of care you’re receiving from your doctor is falling short.

Be honest with your doctor. If you’re struggling, if things are getting worse or you’re feeling suicidal let them know, especially if you don’t have any support at home. You can always ask for a double appointment if you think you’ll need a longer consultation.

Practice self-care in the meantime. While you’re waiting to access services, try to write a wellbeing plan. Make a list containing the names of people you can reach out to, and small things that help you get your sparkle back. Things like try going for a walk in the fresh air, watch a video that makes you laugh, and mindfulness.

Remember you’re not alone. Samaritans are available to listen on 116 123 24/7.

Here’s a video from Mind about finding the words to ask for help from your GP

I hope this helps, feel free to add any extra tips in the comments below if you think it will help someone trying to access their doctor.

©️ Copyright Delphi Ellis

About Delphi Ellis

Qualified Counsellor, Mental Health and Well-Being Trainer, and Mindfulness Practitioner. Creator of Monday Mojo™. Talks 'Lady Business', raising awareness of factors which predominantly affect Women's Mental Health like pregnancy and domestic abuse. Helping to improve the global conversation, and bring an end to stigma and shaming. Dream Explorer as seen on the telly. Avid tea drinker.

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