Tips to get the most from your baby's GP
As a practicing GP and mum of three, Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr. Dawn Harper knows her stuff. She talks to Roisín Dervish-O’Kane about web diagnosis, trusting your instinct, and dealing with the 10-minute appointment
1. Find a doctor you get on with
In general practice you are often dealing with medical, social and emotional problems where personality really does matter. If you don’t get on with yours there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to see someone else. Doctor’s receptionists are bound by the same rules of confidentiality as we are, so it’s fine to say what’s wrong, and ask which doctor in the surgery would be the best person to see.
2.…and stick with them
If your baby is very distressed and you are at your wits end, it's natural that you just want to see someone on the day. But if it’s an ongoing problem it is probably worth waiting a day or two, if you can bear it, to see the person you normally would – or the one you have been recommended. That little bit of waiting time is often worth it to speak to the best person.
3. Use (the reliable bits of) the internet to help you
There is nothing wrong with going online. Everyone does it! They come in and say ‘Sorry! I Googled it, I know I shouldn’t have done.’ But so long as I can fine-tune where mums go on the Internet, it’s a brilliant resource. There is masses of good information out there, which can help mums better present their problems to us. Though every week I will see somebody who has self-diagnosed some rare, life-threatening condition that actually turns out to be a virus…
4. Come prepared to your appointment
The ten-minute appointment frustrates people either side of the fence. But be aware that you’ve only got ten minutes and jump in with both feet. Don’t be afraid to write questions down because you inevitably will forget to ask what you wanted to. Also if you have a resource which lists the symptoms of what you think is wrong with your child, hand it over straight away.
5. Bring a friend
I love it when people bring someone with them. All sorts of studies say you only retain 20 per cent of a conversation – and you don’t need to be Einstein to work out that in 20 per cent of ten minutes, you are not going to be taking away much useful information. So bring someone with you. They can remind you of what you wanted to ask, and with a bit of luck you’ll each remember a different 20 per cent of what went on. It’s also great to have someone there to take notes or talk for you if your baby starts kicking off.
6. Keep in touch
In NHS general practice, if you don’t come back, I will assume that everything is fine. I have to assume that, because the NHS is squeezed and there are loads of other people who need my help. If we do send you away with stuff that isn’t right first time, the most important thing to do is come back.
7. Trust your instincts
If you are certain there is something wrong with your child, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If a mother says her child just isn’t right – especially if it’s baby number two, three or four – then as a doctor, I need to take that seriously.