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GP appointments, what is 'emergency', 'routine' and how long would you expect to wait for a slot?

(74 Posts)
AtYourCervix Wed 16-Oct-13 14:42:37

If you need to see a GP how long do you normally wait?

Also - what would you class as an emergency or routine?

to my mind an emergency is really ill, damaged or infected and needs to be seen like today, but not life threatening, needing to go to A&E.

I'm not any of the above but the next available appointment is November 4th. I could be dead by then.
It's no wonder people go to A&E with sore elbows and flu and stuff.

beals692 Wed 16-Oct-13 23:48:25

At my doctors it's typically a 4 or 5 week wait to get an appointment with either a doctor or a nurse (or at least it was the last time I went - thankfully I haven't needed to see one recently). However, you can get an emergency appointment for the same day if you ring up at 8 am.

Last time I was ill I rang NHS Direct and was advised by the nurse that I needed to be examined by a doctor. I was advised that it wasn't an emergency that needed to be seen the same day but that I should see a doctor this week. I explained that a normal appointment would be in 4 to 5 weeks time and she seemed shocked and said 'oh, no, you need to be seen in the next few days' (ie it was something that I wasn't going to drop down dead with that day but was potentially a symptom of a serious illness so should be looked at quite quickly.) I rang my doctors and explained this and was told 'well, either it can be an emergency in which case you'll be seen today or I can give you an appointment in 5 weeks time'. To be fair, they were perfectly fine with giving me an emergency appointment for it, but it seems crazy that you can only have either an emergency or an appointment in a month's time, when most things probably fall somewhere in between the two.

Have recently changed practices from one with the phone-scrum-at-8.30 system to...well, i haven't quite worked out the new system yet. hmm

Tis a bit weird with the GP system though; 'Is it an emergency?' Well, clearly not, or I'd be in A&E, rather than hanging round here!

I tend to define 'GP emergency' as anything that needs antibiotics. Or anything as to which I am unqualified as to call whether it needs antibiotics.

Our previous county had walk-in centres, which were great, if your DC inconsiderately fell ill later than 9am or whatever, but our current one seems to have abolished them, so it's GP, OOH or A&E.

ClayDavis Wed 16-Oct-13 22:27:07

Ours does emergency, same day appointments where you ring 8am for a morning appointment or 2pm for an afternoon appointment. There's also an emergency clinic after morning surgery where they put your name on a list but it's essentially 1st come 1st served I think. Other than that an appointment with any GP within 2-3 days and an appointment with mine about 1-2 weeks. (which they always apologise for)

Looking at the patient survey there seem to be plenty of people who aren't satisfied with that, so it may be a case of not being able to please all of the people all of the time.

bellybuttonfairy Wed 16-Oct-13 21:27:47

My surgery is marvellous. They have an open surgery every morning between 8.30 - 11am so you just turn up and you'll definaley get seen. The longest I have ever waited is an hour.

To book an appointment for routine stuff depends on the GP you need to see (gorgeous young doctor who is fab, caring and always goes the extra mile fir his patients = 6 weeks, older slightly pervy gp = 1-2 days, all other nice gps = about a week wait.)

They always see an acutely ill child the same day even if they have become poorly in the afternoon, usually they say to come straight over.

difficultpickle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:48:00

When I can't really work out whether I need a routine (ie wait weeks) appointment or a very soon (within a couple of days) one I call the surgery and ask the GP to call me at the end of surgery. They are very good at assessing whether it can wait or not (mostly not) and then they book an appointment themselves, always the same day or next day. Cervix could you try that approach?

macdoodle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:39:17

grin at ozzing cervix, yes must try harder. It is as frustrating for us as well, really the vast majority of GP's care a lot, and are battling a failing system sad

OoozingCervix Wed 16-Oct-13 20:30:02

I completely agree pickle. I try hard not to get frustrated or moan about it, compared with how 2/3 of the world lives. but it's hard when you hurt and you can't get seen.
i must try harder to be patient and grateful.

difficultpickle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:26:48

It is all very well saying you would like to pay a fee and be seen when you want but that is the start of a slippery slope. You will find that the doctors have arrangements with labs and you will be seen quickly but the doctor will say you should have a blood test at extra cost. When I lived in New York I used to have battles with my GP on whether I actually needed to have blood tests for whatever was wrong with me (knowing full well that GP owned a share in the lab that would analyse the blood test).

I would fight tooth and nail to keep the NHS. I'm not well at the moment and got a referral to a world expert on what is most probably wrong with me. Referral letter sent Wednesday afternoon, call from consultant's secretary Thursday morning (which I didn't hear until Thurs evening) and appointment on the following Monday morning. Loads of tests plus over an hour with the consultant discussing my health and no charge at all.

macdoodle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:15:52

You'll find most "mish mashs" are practices struggling to cope, where they havent been able to recruit a GP to replace those fleeing, so 1 will be doing the job of 2. Those are the ones that will go first. Virgin will probably replace them with nurse practitioners, that will be good hmm

nextphase Wed 16-Oct-13 20:13:43

Its a complete mismash at our surgery.

DS1 had a lump on his cheek which spread while he was at nursery. Wandered into reception, as it was on the way home. We had a Dr phone that evening, and apologise she couldn't get him in that evening. Got an appointment at 10am the next morning.
But they have sent out a routine vaccination letter: no appointments available to book - so why send the letter????

I have had success with "I don't know if its an emergency, but XYZ is wrong" We usually get offered something that day, or in the next few days.

I tend to think "I'm not dying, so its not an emergency", but I don't think this is quite what they mean.

macdoodle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:13:26

tallgiraffe, I think you'll find they most definitely do not.
What they will have will be a more spread out, less dense, less elderly, less nursing/residential/sheltered homes, more sensible type patients. Who will often know their practices well, and demand doesnt outstrip capability.

macdoodle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:11:49

oozing cervix, you can suggest, but its a very complex process. In the 10 years I have been a GP, we have changed our appointment system a number of times, and we cant get it right. I'd like you to come and look for a week and see if you can come up with a solution, because 5 intelligent, driven GP's and 2 intelligent, business minded managers cant!

TallGiraffe Wed 16-Oct-13 20:11:41

Our GPs are brilliant. I called at 11 today (I was hoping DS' symptoms were going to improve as the morning went on - they didn't) and he was seen at 3. Call backs are always within an hour and non-emergency appointments are never more than a day or 2 wait. They also do early morning and after work clinics.

Live in the countryside - they get paid more to look after us!

macdoodle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:09:49

oozingcervix, I agree, so what is the solution?
In the last 10years, the population has got older with ever increasing complex medical problems, the population has got far more demanding, far more unable to cope with minor ailments, but GP numbers have shrunk with dwindling funding.
Just look at how the private companies manage out of hours care, and just imagine what they will do to daytime GP?
No other country does routine house calls as the UK public expect, or fund such huge amounts of GP consults.
The solution more funding, more recruitment, better public education, but this will never happen.
The government have a clear agenda and NHS GP will be sold to the highest bidder.
Why do I care? Because I will always have a job, I will work for my highest bidder. But I care about the NHS (or I did before it beat it out of me, with 13 hour days full of mindless nonsense), and I care about what healthcare will be waiting for me and my children. And I dont like the look of it at all.

OoozingCervix Wed 16-Oct-13 20:07:48

maybe i'll suggest (in a polite letter) they need an in-between routine and emergency appointment. a not-bleeding-or-turning-blue-but-quicker-than-3-weeks type level of urgency.

Scarlettsstars Wed 16-Oct-13 20:01:40

My gp surgery is kinda cool. You will wait between 5 & 10 days for a routine appointment but they will get you a phone call back with a gp within 4 hours and they provide emergency appointments if they thi nk you need one on the same day. They also will see under 12 month olds on the same day regardless. I quite like them, better than my old practice where a two week wait was the norm regardless but emergency appointments were technically available on demand (though you had to have them on speed dial and be incredibly lucky to grab be when the lines opened at 8am- it really felt like a tv 'phone in to win' thing).

thegreylady Wed 16-Oct-13 20:01:03

Here we get a same day appointment if we feel we need it. An example was when I had an ear infection a few days before flying on holiday. They ask you if you want to see a particular GP in which case you may have to wait up to 10 days otherwise you can get a non-urgent appointment in 48 hours.

OoozingCervix Wed 16-Oct-13 20:00:18

there's no continuity or ownership now.

it is sad. I love the principles of the NHS, but it just doesn't work when it is tried to run like a business.

and how many people will be screwed when they can't consider paying? or when you have to prove you are insured before you are treated? or can't get insured because you have chronic conditions?

I don't know what the answers are but I do know it doesn't work as it is.

ilovepowerhoop Wed 16-Oct-13 20:00:17

we can book a routine appointment that will be within the next 2 weeks or you can phone in the morning for a more urgent issue. I have made a routine one as my coil has gone awol. I would use a routine appointment for pill renewal, etc too. If I was in pain and couldnt wait that amount of time then I would phone for a same day appointment.

BerstieSpotts Wed 16-Oct-13 19:58:25

Or perhaps even when the UTI had lasted longer than usual in the first place!

BerstieSpotts Wed 16-Oct-13 19:58:02

It is bad though. I used to go for UTIs and then ended up leaving it a few days and found they usually cleared on their own. So when one lasted for a few days longer I thought, oh well, it'll go away by itself, I can't bring myself to navigate the system, it's too complicated.

I started coming down with flu like symptoms and retired to bed (after almost passing out in a shop blush) again thinking it was just a cold and it would pass. DP took DS out and while he was out I started to shiver so badly that I couldn't actually type in the doctor's number on my touch screen phone. Gave up after several attempts and sent a very garbled text message to DP, he came home and took one look at me and ordered me into the car to take me to A&E!

My UTI had turned into a kidney infection, I stayed in for 3 days and had to be on IV antibiotics because orally, they wouldn't be strong enough to fight the infection.

I know part of this is me being a dozy idiot for not noticing that the two things were connected but I feel like if it wasn't such a pain in the arse to get an appointment, I probably would have phoned up for one after the feeling faint in a shop incident.

macdoodle Wed 16-Oct-13 19:54:26

oozingcervix, I am very sad that I think the death of NHS GP is imminent. I trained in a country where it is private, I dont think Virgin et al will offer the same kind of service that we are used to at all (think railways.....). There will be no continuity or ownership, it will be all about profit margins, and it wont be good, of that I am certain.
But I am afraid that GP's can no longer provide what the public demand anymore, and that sadly they will discover the alternative (like the US or NZ) is actually not so great for the majority. If you have money it will be fine. But private healthcare is very expensive.

OoozingCervix Wed 16-Oct-13 19:51:09

I think I'd rather pay a fee and be seen when I need to be seen. And be treated like a rational adult, rather than a nuisance.

but at least they have electricity. and a roof. so i'm very grateful really. just frustrated.

FirstStopCafe Wed 16-Oct-13 19:42:00

I have used emergency appointments in the past when it has been due to worsening asthma or my baby being ill.

My gp surgery only allows you to make appointments for the upcoming 3 weeks. Quite often there are none available when I've called. In these situations the receptionist has advised me to phone at 8am the next day to request an emergency appointment even though I wouldn't have classed it as emergency. The system is obviously not working if they are telling people to do that. I hope they review it.

I would use an emergency appointment for a lump if there were no available appointments for weeks.

If its something like plantar fasciitis then there may not be much they can do.It hurts like hell and makes getting out bed in the morning an absolute misery (its at its worst then)

I would get it checked out by the GP on Friday before hacking your foot off just in case its something fairly easy to fix. Also it'll save you the cost of a new bread knife.

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