Why going for a GP appointment is like catching a train

Recently I was asked to explain to a patient by one of our reception staff why GPs run late. I normally use the analogy of catching a train to explain both why doctors run late with appointments, and why it is important for patients to attend on time.


Our team found it helpful to hear so I thought I would share it wider.


Feel free to comment and share. Notes are below:


Hello I am Dr Hussain Gandhi, GP at Wellspring Surgery in Nottingham, and owner of eGPlearning.


I am here today to talk to you about why going for a GP appointment is kinda the same as catching a train. It may sound unusual, but let us talk about it.

When you go to catch a train, say for example your train is at 10 o’clock. You normally get to the station a little bit early, making sure you have got your ticket, making sure you have got your seat, ready to leave on time with the train.


It is no different for a GP appointment. You may need to get there early to park, sort out any issues in terms of signing in at the reception desk or using the online screens, and obviously sorting out any prescriptions and things you may need before your appointment, ready to go at the start of the appointment.


Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.


Sometimes, with a train, for example, there may be problems elsewhere on the track, meaning that your train is delayed. In a  practice appointment this may mean that there are problems elsewhere in the practice, for example, urgent results need dealing with, unwell patients or a problem within the practice itself that needs managing.


Sometimes when you go for a train, the train that was there before has not left. This can often be a problem in a GP appointment, with patients that are there before you, that is still being dealt with. Normally we would hope that most appointments last 10 minutes or so, this may not always be possible, and if you think about it, if every appointment that the GP sees lasts a couple of extra minutes, and you are the 15th patient on that list, it is easy to understand why your appointment may be half an hour or more running behind.


Sometimes, unfortunately, trains get broken. In a practice appointment, this may mean that there are issues in the practice itself, such as like the recent cyber hacks, or there could be issues of sickness or other kinds of issues. That may mean that unfortunately, your appointment has to be delayed.


A practice will normally try and inform you if this is happening at the time, but sometimes that doesn’t always work so well. Particularly with problems such as growing demand, reducing resources and staff, and increasing expectations by all it can lead to further delays.


One thing to remember is that when the train is gone, it is GONE.


For example with your appointment, if you are late, unless you have a time machine, then you may not be able to make it for that particular appointment.


All practices will have policies about when they will have to see you. Often they may be able to slot you into another appointment later on, or another day.


Or if it is a medically urgent problem, normally the doctors will consider if it is appropriate for you to be seen that day.


Do bear in mind the emergencies that may be happening elsewhere in the practice. And always remember that each practice has their own terms and conditions, kind of like on a train ticket.


I hope you have found this helpful, either in attending you GP appointment or catching a train.


I am Dr Hussain Gandhi


As always, like, comment, share, and keep eGPLearning.

See you later.


Dr Hussain Gandhi
m: .
a: Nottingham UK
w:  e: [email protected]
Technology enhanced Primary Care learning





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