A General Practitioner (GP)’s role is similar to that of the family doctor. They are medically trained and experienced doctors who have chosen to specialize in general community medicine, working in medical practices and clinics. They are likely to be the first point of contact for most non-emergency health problems. They are able to diagnose and treat a wide range of common and uncommon illnesses, and GPs treat people of all ages so can act as a general doctor to all members of a family. They have training and experience in the care of children (pediatrics), the elderly (geriatrics), and everything in between.
GPs’ surgeries or clinics should be accessible to everyone and GPs are experienced in the care of people with all kinds of health or educational needs and abilities. General Practitioners can be consulted about any health concern including mental health. They are able to liaise with social care agencies to facilitate carers or care placements when their patients need non-medical help with their daily lives. As they are likely to be the doctor who has had the most involvement with the long-term care of people who have complex health needs, they are often part of the multi-disciplinary health and social care team arranging input for these patients.
You should be able to get an appointment with your GP for both routine and urgent problems. At the appointment, you will meet your GP and have a chance to explain the reason for your visit. They will ask some questions to help them make a diagnosis and inform their treatment options. Depending on the problem, they may need to examine you. If the symptoms you’ve come in with requiring an examination that involves you undressing or assessment of a personal nature, they will offer a chaperone. Your GP will explain what they’re doing throughout and do everything possible to make sure you feel comfortable.
GPs can refer you for further examinations such as X-rays or ultrasound scans, and some clinics have the facilities to do this in-house for immediate interpretation by the GP. They can also arrange for blood tests which might be taken at the clinic by the GP or a member of their team. These, and other samples and investigations help the doctor make a diagnosis and plan treatment.
The majority of conditions GPs see can be treated at home with advice or prescribed medication. If a condition requires specialist assessment or treatment that can’t be done in general practice, they will refer you for outpatient investigations, hospital treatment or to a specialist clinic.
People with more serious conditions who have been assessed by specialists and have a long-term treatment plan to manage their condition are often discharged back into the care of their GP for ongoing management while their condition is reasonably stable. GPs’ surgeries may run specialist clinics for specific health conditions needing regular monitoring, like diabetes or heart failure.