/ Health

Have you given your GP’s services a check up?

A phone with a reminder to call the doctor

When we surveyed GPs and patients, we found a big gap between what the GPs said they offered, and what the patients thought they offered. Do you know what services your GP can provide?

In our  research into GP services, we found that nine out of 10 GPs say they offer telephone consultations, but only six in 10 patients said their surgery offered this service. We also found that more than half of GPs said patients could order repeat prescriptions online, but only a third of patients said this was the case.

I found out almost by accident that my GP practice offers a telephone consultation. The receptionist suggested the service to me after I became frustrated when I couldn’t book an emergency same-day appointment for my very ill child.

Calling for help

Since then, I’ve used the service three times (and all within the space of a few days – what a week that was). I found it’s useful when you just need some quick advice in the aftermath of an accident to help you decide whether you’ve done enough to help the person involved or whether they need to see a doctor or go to A&E.

I learned the best course of action for a child who had squirted window cleaner in their eye and even a child who managed to get dog muck in their eye. My personal advice is not to trust someone whose garden you’re in when they tell you ‘it’s just a bit of mud’.

Do you know whether your GP surgery offers telephone consultations? Do you think GPs should do more to tell patients about the different ways their services can be accessed? For me, being aware of the telephone service certainly put my mind to rest and no doubt took pressure off the surgery and my local A&E.

Does your GP offer ways to access their services that you think are particularly helpful? Are there any services you wish your GP offered?


I can order my prescription on the surgery patient access system, but I prefer to post it in and include a stamped address envelope and then it is posted to my house, This way, I only have to deal with it once and do not have to remember to collect it from the surgery.

I’m not sure if my surgery offers planned telephone consultations, I have never been offered one, perhaps because they are not deemed appropriate for my condition. They may have found it difficult to diagnose jaundice over the phone. I know the doctors speak to patients over the phone if the receptionist asks them to do so. From what I have overheard, it usually seems to be where the patient is asking for confirmation of something. I have used NHS Direct a couple of times in the past, at the weekend, and found that useful. On one occasion, I was directed to the nearest A&E and spent the night there. I suppose that is the equivalent of a telephone consultation and the only option at weekends.

I think most surgery websites are pathetic, mine is and a few friends said the same about their surgery. They carry very little more information than the small brochure of years past and are not updated regularly. I have made that comment on NHS Choices as I would not be critical of the website in the surgery. To do that may incur the wrath of the practice manager or the receptionist.

My GP practice has an excellent and up-to-date website, so it is very easy to learn about the service available. There is an online system for requesting repeat prescriptions (collected by a local pharmacy) and booking appointments, though the username and password are more complicated than what my bank demands. Medication reviews, annual blood tests, my asthma check, and test results are all well organised, and flu jab sessions are conducted like a military operation.

I was rather shocked to be told that I would have to wait three weeks for appointment recently, but at least that was just for a medication review. Next time I will ask for a telephone consultation.

Having just checked the practice website, I have found that Saturday morning appointments are now available.

This and other GP practices all use local phone numbers rather than the expensive 084 numbers that some people have to deal with, and occasionally I have had a call from the surgery.

I used NHS Direct the last time I was ill, during the Swine Flu outbreak. It is very reassuring to be able to get help out of hours.

Peter Porter says:
18 April 2013

I can book appointments on the internet. You need a surgery and patient number before you can do so. Unfortunately the dates available are always a fortnight ahead. Not much use if your need to see a doctor is fairly urgent. So I am in the queue outside the surgery at 0830 to get an appointment that day.

I find that changes to the medical services are not widely publized – unless you visit the surgery regularly. I only found out, via a notice taped to the surgery door, that minor emergencies could be treated at other local surgeries rather than going to A & E. Pity that my surgery does not have a newsletter sent directly to patient’s email addresses.

Mike A says:
23 September 2013

Like me, this patient finds that generally, internet appointments are only available about a fortnight ahead, and so he queues outside the surgery at 8.30am to get an appointment the same day.
However, if his GP practice operates like mine then, if he logs onto the appointment system at 8.31am, he will find that about 14 appointments have been released for that day. But you have to be quick to get one – better to opt for one later in the day – because the surgery receptionists are looking at the same list and releasing them to personal and telephone callers.

When all the face-to-face appointments for the same day have gone at my sugery, the receptionists then start offering some telephone appointments.

Geoff Johnson says:
19 April 2013

In respect of patients having on-line access to their medical records, and 96% of GPs not providing such access or even being aware if their systems would be able to cope, please may I recommend that patients and GPs should visit http://www.patientsknowbest.com.

Patients Know Best (PKB) was ranked as the leading Personal Health Record in a study commissioned by the UK government. PHRs from around the world were ranked on a four point scale and PKB’s PHR was the only one to reach level four.

From my perspective, PKB absolutely meets the need, not least for someone like myself with a number of conditions under the care of 3 different consultants at 3 different NHS Trusts who, it seems never consult each other about me or even examine my medical records – most probably because there are 4 sets spread around the NHS. PKB sorts all of this out! I strongly recommend their service.


I have just found out that my surgery now send a text reminder of appointments. They also open on alternate Saturday mornings for patients who are unable to attend during the week.

Simon says:
23 April 2013

With my GPs Medical centre Website, I can (1) book appointments (2) request a telephone consultation – good for medication discussions (3) re-order prescriptions, and collect from a pharmacy close to me. I use all of these. I do not know if I can access my personal records – I have not seen anything that says I can.

John says:
24 April 2013

My Medical centre has a good clear web site with good clear information regarding all clinics and services available. I can order repeat prescriptions at any time of day or night, which will be collectable by either my local pharmacy or myself, with 48 hours of ordering.
I can’t book any appointments on line and must either call in by telephone or in person at the surgery. Calling by telephone must be before 8am, but this is frustrating as the line is usually very busy and when I do get through to reception there are usually no appointments. I often get round this by asking for an appointment with the Nursing Practitioner, who will often phone me back and discuss my medical problem and either give me advice over the phone or tell me to com to the practice within an hour or so; this works quite well. I did suggest to the practice manager that they should allow patients to book appointments on line as it would free up the practice telephone for patients who did not have access to a computer. I did receive a nice polite reply saying it was something they were considering, however up to now NOTHING.

Organised says:
1 May 2013

Booking appointments on line is a joke. Most times I have tried I couldn’t get onto the system. Also, not all available appointent slots are bookable on line. I don’t try any more, I just go into the surgery (often passing) or ring up, for a choice of all available appointments.

I can book an appointment on line from a list of available times and doctors. If there is nothing suitable I can check in to the ‘sit and wait ‘ surgery at the practice . I can also book prescriptions online, to be delivered to my local pharmacy within 48 hrs. If I don’t want to visit the surgery, I can ask for a doctor to call me after surgery is over to discuss my problem. The surgery has a text reminder service for appointments. I find the login process easy and very useful. I don’t know if I can access my medical records online or not, but when applying for a blue badge for my husband, the doctor mailed us a list of all treatments , tests and results at no charge.

barry natton says:
14 May 2013

I have used the same GP practice for 30 years the Villa medical centre in Birkenhead The doctors are great, the administration is appalling you can never get through to them on the telephone without trying at least 10 times. They supposedly have an online system which doesn’t work they give me a password etc but I can never get on and the staff tell me the system is useless. I had mentioned this to the doctor I see but understandably he doesn’t really want to know and tells me it’s the practice manager’s job. The practice manager is not the easiest person to deal with, so nothing happens. I don’t like to make a formal complaint because the doctors and the practice nurses our great, so I end up putting up with appalling admin

Please check out your GP practice on the NHS Choices website and leave your comments on your experience in using the practice services. You do not need to use your name as anonymous comments are accepted, but it is one way of registering your views on the administration of the practice. I have twice used this site to comment on my GP’s practice and I had a response on the web site, from the practice manager.

The adminstration at my local GP in London is often in disarray. I find it hard to get repeat prescriptions and they are sometimes sent to the wrong pharmacy to pick up. It is also very hard to get an appointment even when I receive a letter requesting me to arrange one.

I still control my repeat prescriptions by posting in my request and enclose a stamped addressed envelope for the Surgery to post the new prescription direct to me.

I also had problems getting through to the Surgery to book appointments and now I book them myself on the Patient Access website. Your surgery will set up the access for you and give you the id and password to gain access to the website. This will not get you appointments sooner but it removes the stress from the situation – it has done for me.

I moved home earlier this year and have had to move to a nearby practice. As an asthmatic I’m on regular medication and need routine prescriptions. For several years I have ordered what I need via the online service used by the practice and the pharmacy in the local Tesco supermarket picked up my prescription, no doubt with many others, so that all I had to do was to remember to pick up the packet next time I was shopping. I do not need this service but it was offered by the supermarket.

With my present practice, I have to both order the prescription items online and also notify my chosen pharmacy. That seems pointless because they will be collecting prescriptions from the same practice daily.

That’s a salient point. The Pharmacies (mainly now Boots) used to offer excellent systems for delivering repeat prescriptions but we’ve found their service has declined rather sharply.

Until January this year only my wife needed regular meds – thyroxine, in fact – but since then I’ve also needed some for post-operative recovery. To start with everything was fine but the problems start when any single med is changed – in concentration, type or quantity. Not once has Boots (in our case) managed to get it right.

Being the awkward type (according to my beloved…) I have attempted to discover just what goes wrong, but it’s far from easy. The pharmacy always (and reflexively) blames the surgery, and the surgery blames either the GP or the pharmacy.

Now, I appreciate that dealing with sometimes dangerous drugs is an issue that requires strong systems in place and that the concentrations of those drugs needs to be right. And I can go some way to accepting the need for prescriptions to be done on paper and not simply on computers. But once a repeat system is established I would have thought that simple changes in concentrations or even removal of single drugs and changes to others could be accommodated fairly easily. But it seems not.

I have had a very different experience, Ian. The Tesco pharmacy has not let me down even when doses have changed, and on two occasions has picked up problems. One was an antibiotic that was not compatible with one of the drugs I was taking. Tesco collects prescriptions from the nearby surgery daily. It also maintains a good stock of common drugs, unlike the smaller independent pharmacies that I would have preferred to use. When I go to collect my drugs, the sealed packet is opened and checked again against the prescription. I don’t have much positive to say about Tesco but the pharmacy service could not be bettered at the branch I have used.

Stay well and keep taking the Convos. 🙂

I’m envious. Sadly, we have no Tesco Pharmacy anywhere near us.

I picked up my prescription from the local Morrisons pharmacy this morning and will try to discover why they and my new GP practice don’t work together as efficiently as what I have been used to.

I collect my thyroid meds every 28 days from the local pharmacy in the village which never fails to materialise. I usually receive a little note with the tablets about 2 months before my annual blood check is due to remind me to make an appointment to see my GP. It is an excellent and trouble free service, the only downside being I have to rely on someone else to collect it when I am unwell but thankfully that doesn’t happen very often.