This is, in my experience, quite a popular question for journalists to ask which clearly reflects public interest in the answer. Given the time pressure on GPs nowadays, many people feel that they may have less time with their doctor than they had in the past. However there are a few straightforward answers on how to maximise your time, and your doctors, to get the most out of them.

Lots of GP surgeries use texts and emails to keep in contact with you and also allow you to make appointments, send queries and order tablets online

Take advantage of technology

A lot of GP surgeries use texts and emails to keep in contact with you and also allow you to make appointments, send queries and order your tablets online. It makes sense to engage with these services to ensure that you are kept up-to-date and do not have to waste time on the phone when organising medication or an appointment.

Unable to see your GP because you are at work?

Did you know that a lot of GP surgeries are open either early mornings or in the evenings, some are even open at weekends. Take a look at the surgery website and see when they are open, it is likely that most, if not all GP surgeries will be open, early or late at least one day a week.

Keep things simple

Do not let problems build up. Your GP is unlikely to be able to effectively sort more than one problem out in ten minutes. You could push them to sort more but it means that they will be stretched for time and are less likely to be able to give each problem the time that it needs to be dealt with completely.


Continuity is the pinnacle of patient management and in an ideal world this would be possible every time. Unfortunately this is not always possible. There are cases and patients that I try to follow up as continuity definitely helps and even speeds up a patient’s recovery and overall wellbeing. If I need to see the patient I do have the ability to make the patient a follow-up appointment, your own Doctor may also be able to do this. There is no harm in asking.

At the end of the day every GP surgery is different and, having worked as a freelance GP, this is definitely the case and my advice may not work everywhere. If you feel strongly about the service that your GP provides you can always volunteer to be a member of the surgery’s “Patient Participation Group”, which all GP surgeries should run and allows their patients a forum to discuss matters that are important to them.


Ask Doc James

Dr James Thompson is a UK-trained GP based in London and the East Midlands. He graduated from the University of Southampton medical school in 2005 and has, since then, worked both as a GP at clinics throughout the south of England and as a freelance GP at a variety of practises throughout the Midlands. James has a broad range of interests within health and his approach to general practice is very much focussed on encouraging and teaching better lifestyle choices for his patients. He also has interests in medical education and, in particular, communication skills. In early 2012 James founded, a website featuring various patient-advice media, but principally based in video. It's James' belief that "reaching the target audience, in the 16-24 age group as well as increasingly in the older age groups affected by a range of medical conditions," that video, YouTube, social and other new media is an incredibly effective way of getting the health message across. The videos cover a number of conditions, from back pain to menopause, cholesterol to sexual health, and the aim is to add topics to this on a regular basis. Each video provides concise and accurate medical information in a visually engaging way.

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