What to do if you can’t get a doctor’s appointment
Struggling to get medical help can be frustrating. Here’s what you can do, depending on the severity of your condition.
1. Request an emergency appointment with your GP surgery
There’s often a receptionist standing between you and your doctor’s appointment. Nowadays, receptionists are dealing with an influx of patients due to the pandemic. This is why you stay on the phone for so long, waiting for your turn to talk to them. And when you finally get through, you may not be able to book an appointment with your GP. Additionally, a receptionist may not have enough time to give you alternative options if your GP is unavailable.
So, if you feel really unwell, go to your GP surgery first thing in the morning. It’s always easier to explain the urgency of your situation in person.
2. Seek medical advice from a pharmacist
If you have a minor illness, try visiting your local pharmacy. Pharmacists are not just salespeople but medical specialists who can recommend medicines on the basis of your symptoms. They are trained to advise you on a range of common illnesses, from allergies or indigestion to colds and fever.
More often than not, there’s also a private room where a pharmacist can assess your current state of health. In case of any particular concern, you may be advised to seek further medical help.
3. Use NHS 111
If you have a medical urgency and you don’t know what to do next, use NHS 111. It’s your chance to get help online or on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More information about NHS 111 is available here.
How does it work? You describe your symptoms by answering questions on the website or by speaking to a trained adviser. Depending on the severity of your condition, you will be referred to a pharmacist, GP, or even A&E.
4. Opt for an online consultation
First of all, check if your GP surgery has a website or an app. Most GP practices in the UK have an online presence of some sort. You may be able to get an appointment quicker than you can over the phone.
Also, you can use an online form to get a consultation on your health issue. Try to be specific about your symptoms, the severity of your case, and whether or not you need an offline appointment. If you can’t get through to your GP online, search for services that provide virtual consultations with a doctor via a video call or chat.
5. Visit an NHS walk-in centre
If you need urgent treatment outside of your doctor’s working hours, visit one of the NHS walk-in centres. They tend to stay open later in the evening during the working week and on weekends. While you don’t have to have an appointment to get help at a walk-in centre, be ready to wait your turn.
Minor injuries like cuts, burns, sprains, and presumably broken bones, stomach pain, and high temperatures are the types of conditions that can be treated at a walk-in centre. You can also attend a walk-in centre if you’re away from home. You don’t need to be registered with the facility to get help.
6. Take private treatment
If you can afford it, you won’t regret investing it in your health. Private healthcare means no more waiting in NHS queues. You can expect excellent customer service and extra time to talk to your GP. While this option is usually more expensive, it is your chance to guarantee a doctor’s appointment if you need urgent help.
There are a lot of private hospitals for you to choose from. However, it’s best to have a medical policy to cut costs. Check health insurance quotes that include private treatment to find the best fit.
7. Try calling after 11 am
If your health issue can wait a day or two, don’t rush to call your GP surgery in the morning. Morning hours are always busy with emergency patients. The flow of patients is starting to ebb away in the afternoon. To have less friction with the healthcare system, put off making a call until after 11 am.
8. Choose the right day for your GP appointment
If you have the luxury of choosing a day for your appointment, choose it wisely. The day of the week you’re visiting your GP surgery is important. You can spend less time waiting due to fewer patients.
Typically, the quietest days are in the middle of the week. Mondays are crowded with patients who have been waiting to see a doctor all weekend. And Fridays are for people who postponed taking care of their health during workdays.
9. Stop calling and turn up
You can spend hours trying to reach your hospital by phone. The landline often experiences a lot of traffic, which means you merely waste precious minutes. If you can’t book an appointment, it’s best to visit the GP’s office. This way, you have a higher chance of getting the right treatment sooner.
10. Follow your GP practice protocol
Find out what the best way is to make a non-emergency booking at your GP surgery. Should you call on the same day or book an appointment with a GP online in advance? Following the rules will help you to get a GP appointment more easily.
11. Set up a repeat prescription
If you take medicine on a regular basis, ask your GP to set up a repeat prescription for you. The doctor will give you permission to repeat the prescription without having to come for a check-up until a given date. Then your GP will see you to assess how your state is improving and alter your prescription if needed.
What to do in case of emergency
Don’t hesitate to call 999 in an emergency situation. Specify if you’re experiencing any symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Remember the symptoms of a heart attack:
- Sudden and persistent chest pain or discomfort
- Pain that travels down an arm or into your jaw, neck, or back
- Breathlessness and sweating for no particular reason
Signs of stroke:
- Sudden numbness on one side of your face, in one arm or leg
- Sudden trouble speaking and confusion
- Sudden dizziness and lack of coordination
It’s preferable to wait for an ambulance rather than going to A&E by yourself. The paramedics will do the initial assessment and help you to get admitted to the hospital.
If you don’t need an ambulance, coming to A&E might be a good option. If you’re uncertain, call 111 for guidance.
In case of emergency, call 999 or consult with NHS 111 specialists first. If you feel really unwell, try to show up at your GP practice early in the morning. If you have a minor injury, attend the closest walk-in centre. Consider going straight to a pharmacy if you’re experiencing a minor cold, allergy, or indigestion. Remember that you can opt for an online consultation.