General practice is mainly organised around a system of appointments made by patients with the doctor and it is therefore important that the best use is made of the time available
75% of appointments are of ten minutes duration with most of the rest being of five minutes’ duration. A small proportion of appointments can be allocated more than ten minutes by negotiation.
Approximately 75% of appointments can be booked well in advance of the desired appointment date, but the remainder can only be booked within forty-eight hours of the desired appointment date. This is to satisfy the government’s patient access targets. Several appointments for urgent problems are set aside at the end of each surgery but these are not filled until the day in question.
Rules of Play
Ten minutes is not a great deal of time in which to conduct a consultation with all that it entails, and we suggest that patients need to take some of the responsibility for keeping within the time allocated. There is a tendency to overestimate the amount of time available once they enter the consulting room and some patients try to raise too many problems during the consultation. The inevitable outcome is that the consultation overruns and the surgery starts to run late leading to a backlog for the patients with later appointments. This is not to say that we do not occasionally expect appointment times to run over but we would ask you to remain aware of the limitations of the time available and that other patients are waiting.
Once in the consulting room please mention your main complaint first and try to describe your symptoms clearly;
Avoid bringing a list of problems to the consultation, as one appointment is really only meant to address one complaint, although we may be prepared to discuss a second, minor complaint in a ten minute appointment, at our discretion. Mentioning more than two conditions will be viewed as lacking in consideration for the doctor and for patients waiting to come in later.
Do not say (or even think!) ”I don’t attend the surgery very often so I’ve saved up my complaints”.
If you feel that your problem may merit longer than ten minutes or feel justified in mentioning two complaints, then it may be possible to arrange a double appointment and you should book this with the receptionists. You will probably have to wait a little longer for a double appointment in these circumstances.
Be prepared to make a further appointment on the doctor’s instructions if there is insufficient time to deal thoroughly with your problem.
Some situations demand special arrangements, for instance it would be unrealistic to expect the doctor to carry out a full medical examination and complete an extensive form during a normal surgery appointment slot. Discuss your requirements with the reception staff.
Please do not discuss the medical problems or needs of other patients in addition to your own complaint. At worst, entering into such a discussion could constitute a breach of confidentiality. At the very least, this will lengthen the consultation. One patient - one appointment