Although people told us about many positive experiences of good GP care, some also talked about disappointing appointments when things didn’t go so well. Problems included:
lack of information, explanation, and involvement in deciding what to do
wrong diagnosis or long time to get referred to a specialist
poor relationship with the GP
seeing different GPs almost every appointment
lack of knowledge of mental health
not being listened to or taken seriously
Lack of information, explanation, and involvement in deciding what to do
When Emma was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the GP sent her to hospital straight away. Although she was diagnosed quickly, Emma felt shocked – she didn’t know what type 1 diabetes was or how it could affect the rest of her life. She would have liked more information from the doctor who diagnosed her but ended up asking her dad many of the questions she had because he was also a GP. Emma felt that her own doctor should have made sure she was okay after giving her news of ‘a life changing event’. She had no idea she’d be on insulin for the rest of her life.
The appointment felt rushed. Emma would have liked the GP to explain what diabetes was, how the diagnosis could affect her life, and ask if she had support.
JalÃ© felt nervous about seeing the GP. She thought he would ignore her but he referred her to hospital.
Susan wished that the GPs she’d seen had given her more information about preventing fungal toe infections. She kept getting them and saw different doctors four or five times until she ‘just kind of gave up with it and put up with it for a long time’. She felt frustrated that the creams she used didn’t work and would have liked to have been told at the first appointment that, for severe, ongoing infections, tablets would have been more effective and that fungal infections can take some time to go completely.
Susan’s infection was severe. She wished she’d been told that tablets would be more effective than creams. She’s had fungal infections for over 6 years.
When Aaron hurt his wrist playing football, his usual GP was away so he saw another. This doctor told Aaron that he’d sprained his wrist and would be fine. Aaron saw the GP three times because the wrist pain was getting worse but felt that nothing was being done. He then saw another doctor when he moved home to go to university. An x-ray showed that he had a fracture:
The doctor didn’t seem interested in what Aaron told him. He didn’t explain anything about the tests he did and prescribed painkillers.
It seemed like the doctors didn’t care because Winston’s problem wasn’t serious. He would have liked more information about what was wrong with his toe.
Lack of time and feeling rushed in appointments was a common worry. Young people said it could take them a while to feel comfortable and find the words to say what was troubling them. Shane saw a GP about his mental health and went back the next day and saw another doctor. The second GP prescribed him antidepressants after reading the notes from the day before. Shane recalled that this appointment felt very rushed.
The GP talked to the computer screen and made no eye contact. Shane was in and out in 5 minutes.
The GP didn’t explain why she wanted to prescribe one particular drug to Sarah, even when she asked. She felt that the doctor was annoyed that I was challenging.
Poor relationship with the GP
It can be difficult to create a good relationship with the GP when people are regularly seeing different doctors or if they’ve had negative experiences in the past. Ish felt that it was hard to find a good GP and recalled going to the doctors’ four times with flu-like symptoms. The GP was reluctant to give him antibiotics but didn’t explain why. Ish felt that the symptoms he had should have been treated and that they’d caused him to have hearing loss in one ear. He felt that it was difficult to find a GP ‘that cares about you’ but that a good relationship with the doctor can help patients open up. He talks more openly to doctors he has a connection with.
People who have a good relationship with their GP are more likely to be honest about embarrassing problems. GPs should only progress if they give helpful advice.
Ambeya felt that her experiences of GPs were good when she was younger but had changed over the years because she rarely saw the same doctor. She found it difficult to build a relationship with ‘a family doctor’ that saw everyone in her family, as she had done in the past, and this put her off seeing them. She also felt that GPs expected young people to take more responsibility for their own health when they turned 18.
The GPs know little about Ambeya’s medical history. She prefers looking up her symptoms online and talking to friends or going to a natural health shop.
Lack of knowledge of mental health
Auberon and Sophie felt that a lot of GPs knew little about mental health. Auberon was under the care of a psychiatrist and felt that his GP appointments were often rushed and he’d be advised to see his psychiatrist instead. At the age of 14, Nikki saw several GPs and found it hard to tell them in short appointments about how she’d been feeling. She’d been very depressed and was self-harming. A few doctors advised her to go for a walk or to exercise and she felt ‘pushed away’ and rejected. Later, when she told a school counsellor that she’d been hearing voices, she felt that she was taken seriously but only because doctors ‘care about particular buzzwords’.
Nikki felt that the different GPs she saw didn’t take her concerns seriously. It was hard to tell them everything in ten minutes.
Sophie felt that the GP knew nothing about mental health and she was kind of showing that quite clearly. The questionnaire seemed to be aimed at children.
It’s hard to talk about feelings in a short appointment. There’s usually more behind the visit. GPs should give information about helplines and charities.
mental health consultations were often dealt with in short appointments and felt rushed
it’s hard for young people to talk about mental health
it’s also hard for them to open up to a GP they hardly know
seeing the same GP is helpful
other kinds of consultations (e.g. by phone or online) can be useful for young people when it’s hard to open up
Doc Ready is designed to help young people prepare for their first appointment with a GP to talk about their mental health.
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Not being listened to or taken seriously
Although Isaac’s most recent consultation was good- the GP listened, explained, and referred him to hospital quickly when he had a mole on his arm – his experiences at a younger age when he’d gone with an adult had been less positive. He recalled having a consultation about hay fever when he was eight, which he went to with his grandmother.