Some people had experience of a telephone consultation (a GP appointment over the phone), which could be a quicker and easier alternative to a face to face consultation as long as the doctor doesn’t need to examine the person. It was also helpful for people who couldn’t get to the surgery easily.
When Aaron had neck and shoulder pain for several weeks, he tried to get an appointment with a doctor. No GP was available in person so he was given a telephone consultation instead. He felt that telephone consultations are ‘a great idea’, especially as doctors are very busy, but would prefer a face to face appointment next time as the pain was still there:
A GP can’t tell over the phone how stiff someone’s neck is’ or how much pain they’re in. In some situations face to face consultations are better.
Simon wasn’t told that his telephone consultation could be any time between 9.30 – 12.30. He phoned the surgery to find out why he still hadn’t heard.
Telephone consultations are good when Auberon wants to discuss his medications or mental health, but not if he needs to show the GP a physical problem.
When Amy explained her problem over the phone, the GP asked her to come in. Before that she’d had telephone consultations to discuss test results.
Skype consultations are a great’ idea because you don’t have to take time off work and you can see the health professional that you’re talking to.
Telephone consultations are really useful’ for minor issues that are hard to explain over the phone. Rowan wondered if a live chat with the GP would be quicker.
Telephone consultations are a good compromise’ when someone needs a GP appointment but can’t get out of bed because of depression.
A face to face appointment feels more comforting. A telephone consultation feels like the GP’s not really taking it as seriously.
Some people are scared of going to the doctors. A telephone consultation might stop them from going to see the GP in person.
Vinay felt that a telephone service for young people having mental health issues could be helpful as it would allow anonymity. But he felt that face to face consultations can be better because ‘you can see if the person’s paying attention’ and not ‘half-listening’, otherwise ‘you could feel more frustrated and alone’. Joanna also preferred face to face consultations for mental health because telephone consultations didn’t allow GP or patient to see one another’s body language.
When something means a lot to you’, it’s important to see that the health professional is engaged and paying attention.
Lucy felt that GP Skype consultations and telephone appointments would be better for people going through mental health problems. She also liked the idea of talking to a professional in an informal setting rather than at the surgery. Sarah was concerned that, although there should be ways of contacting GPs other than face to face consultations, the alternatives might mean less money being spent on health services.