With a rising population leading to greater pressure on the health service, many patients are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a prompt appointment with their GP. In 2014, the chair of the Royal College of GPs branded GP waiting times ‘a national disgrace’, with one in six patients having to wait more than a week to see their doctor.
Fortunately, a number of options exist to help you to obtain a quick appointment with a doctor, so that your medical condition can be treated promptly, or even simply to allay your concerns about the state of your health.
Pick up the phone early
Many GP surgeries release the appointments for each day as soon as the surgery opens, leading to a frantic rush for spaces that are rapidly taken up; it’s not uncommon for patients to find, maybe only 10 minutes after their practice opens, that there are no available appointments until the following day.
It pays, therefore, to be exceptionally well-organised on the day that you require an appointment with your GP, being able and ready to phone as soon as the telephone lines are opened in the morning. If you encounter an engaged tone, hang up and redial immediately, repeating this until you successfully get through.
You may also find that some days are quieter than others – Mondays, for example, often being days of high demand – so opt to book an appointment on another day instead.
Request the duty doctor
If you think that your health warrants an immediate appointment but your GP surgery is fully booked for the day, ask for a telephone appointment with the duty doctor. This will enable a GP to call you at home or work and to discuss your symptoms which, if judged to be serious enough, may result in you being offered an appointment in person at the practice on the same day.
If you are in need of an urgent doctor’s appointment at a time when your surgery is closed, you can often obtain a prompt time by accessing out-of-hours healthcare.
While telephoning the 111 service is one option, you may find that you are subject to lengthy delays if a medical practitioner needs to call you back. Instead, visit your nearest walk-in clinic. These clinics are usually located in major towns and cities and enable you to call in at your own convenience and to be given an appointment to see a GP as soon as possible, with no lengthy phone delays involved.
Call a private GP
Alternatively, it may be possible to see a doctor on a private basis during normal surgery times or at weekends when your regular practice is closed. Private GP services are located in many cities and often enable you to have a more detailed consultation with a doctor or nurse who can prescribe appropriate treatment or refer you to other services as necessary.
Accessing primary healthcare is possible even at short notice, so it is well-worth investigating all the options, rather than accepting an appointment at a later date, by which time your condition or symptoms may have worsened.