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Can we train patients to be perfect?

GP registrar blogger Dr Surina Chibber wonders how to get patients to understand the limitations of the 10 minute consultation

Over recent years I have become increasingly interested in the world of medical journalism. I am especially interested in the information and messages our patients receive from the media and also how this influences GPs in their everyday consultations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a television programme which is exploring patients' journeys through the NHS from diagnosis to management. As part of this programme I had to discuss with other doctors: What do patients' do that can negatively impact on their consultation?

The results of the discussion were extremely interesting. Points raised for discussion included the negative impact that non-attendees have on appointment availability, the effect of patients that are consistently late for their appointments and also the difficulty in managing more than one clinical problem for each 10 minute appointment. These points (amongst others) seemed to be universal in their frequency and negative impact.

This experience got me thinking - WHY do these universal themes keep occurring…?

So, I set about trying to find out. I questioned a group of patients over the course of a few weeks about their thoughts and experiences of GP appointments. Although many were extremely happy with their GP it seemed that a majority were not aware that each consultation was 10 minutes long and that for more complex or multiple problems they could book a double appointment. Many patients were also not aware of alternative resources for medical advice such as walk in centres or out-of-hours GP services.

So in the style of GP training... upon reflecting on these ‘problems' could we as GPs give more information to patients about how long we actually have for a consultation? About the negative impact that late attendees have for not only other patients but also the time constraints it imposes to effectively deal with the patient's problems?

What do you think? Why do you think these situations arise and do you have any suggestions on how we could rectify this to help improve our patients' satisfaction and the efficiency and effectiveness of our surgeries?

How does one get a perfect patient and a perfect consultation?

Dr Surina Chibber is a GP registrar on the Imperial College VTS Scheme.

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