Dr Liza Macdonald FRCR MA

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How should a consultation
end satisfactorily?

  Getting The Best out of Your Doctor

How should a consultation end satisfactorily?

Once there is a working-diagnosis make sure that you agree a plan of action.

Ensure that you understand what should happen next... perhaps you will be referred for a specialist opinion, perhaps there will be a test arranged such as a blood sample or an x-ray. Check when these will happen, what sort of request form will be needed.

Check how to contact the department who will undertake the test and check how to contact the doctor again if necessary.

Check under what circumstances the doctor would like you to contact him. For example, if the symptoms get worse what should you do? If the symptoms remain unchanged, but persist for a week or a month what should you do then?

If you are to be referred to a specialist at a hospital discuss which hospital the GP suggests. Most patients now have the right to choose which hospital provider they are referred to by their GP. This legal right, which was introduced in April 2009, lets patients choose from any hospital provider in England offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards. In practice most people usually choose the nearest hospital but you may do better to consider other factors such as reputation, clinical performance, parking facilities or other patients experience.

Once there is an agreed plan of action thank the doctor and leave promptly.

Go to the reception or to the doctor's secretary and report what has been decided.

Show them the forms or the prescription and make the appropriate follow-up appointment.

Check how you will get the result. (See How to get your results)

Most GPs have a large sign in the waiting room telling patients to confine their conversation during the consultation to a single topic. Government guidelines have recently been prioritising choice and access to ensure that all patients have the opportunity to speak to a doctor. (This policy has not always been successful!) The result is that consultation slots are short and turnover rapid.

How should you cope with this if you have more than one problem?

You might mention to the doctor briefly at the outset that you have two problems. Unknown to you these may in fact be connected. Some diseases are multifaceted and the problems you see as separate might in fact be part of a whole e.g. a specific skin rash and a type of arthritis.

If one problem is more important than the other start with that. If time allows deal with both. Otherwise you may simply have to make a separate appointment to bring up the second issue. Most receptionists, due to the pressure on doctors' time will be unwilling to book a double appointment to deal with two problems....but you can try!

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