Find out what happens when you see your GP and how to get the most out of your appointment.
Getting the most out of your GP appointment
It can be difficult to remember everything you want to say and ask when you see the doctor. These tips will help you get the most out of your appointment.
- Write down your symptoms including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.
- Write down if anything makes them worse or better.
- Tell your GP if you are worried about cancer in particular.
- Bring a friend or relative along for support - they could also ask questions and help you remember what the GP says.
- Ask the GP to explain anything you don’t understand.
- Ask the GP to write things down for you if you think this might help.
What happens during your GP appointment
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms:
- what they are
- when you get them
- whether anything makes them better or worse
They will also ask you about your general health and they might examine you.
Tests your GP might do
Usually your GP examines you and asks about your general health. They ask you about your symptoms. This includes what they are, when you get them and whether anything you do makes them better or worse.
Your GP asks you to lie down for a physical examination. They feel the area where there is pain or swelling. It might feel tender, or it might be possible to feel a lump. They also listen to your chest, to see if there are any signs of fluid collecting.
After your examination, your doctor might need to refer you to hospital for tests and x-rays. Or you might be referred directly to a specialist.
Ask your GP to explain if they don’t think you need a referral or any tests. They might ask you to come back in a week or two if your symptoms continue. Go back if they change or get worse.
If you have been told before that you have liver disease (cirrhosis), you will already have a liver specialist and so you may go straight to them.
Questions you might want to ask your GP
- Do I need to see a specialist? Is it urgent?
- When will I see them?
- Will I find out about my appointments by post or telephone?
- Do I need tests? What will they involve?
- How long should I expect to wait?
- Where can I find out more about tests?
- Do I have to do anything in preparation for this test?
- When will I get the results and who will tell me?
If they don't think you need any tests or a referral
- Can you explain to me why I don’t need to have tests or see a specialist?
- Is there anything I can do to help myself?
- Do I need to see you again?
- Who do I contact if my symptoms continue or get worse, particularly if it’s during the night or at weekends?
The GP might arrange for you to have blood tests. You usually have these at your GP practice or your local hospital. Depending on your symptoms, your GP can arrange some hospital tests, such as an ultrassound scan.
What happens next
Make sure you know what happens next. Make another appointment if your symptoms don’t clear up, or they change or get worse.
How to find a GP
If you don’t have a GP, you can find a doctor’s surgery in your local area by going to:
Making a GP appointment
You can book an appointment online at most GP surgeries, telephone them or go in person. You don’t have to tell the receptionist what you want to see the doctor for.
Try different times of the day if it's difficult to get through by phone. Your surgery might have a clinic you can turn up to and wait to see a doctor. You might have to wait a long time but you’ll see a doctor that day.
If it’s difficult to get to the surgery, check whether your practice has telephone appointments with a doctor. They’ll tell you if you need to go into see them at the surgery.
Accept a booked appointment, even if you think it’s a long time to wait. You could ask about cancellations if you are able to get to the practice at short notice.