Children and young people: seeing a GP

Lots of young people see their doctor because they're worried about something, are feeling unwell or need treatment. You can visit your doctor at any age, about any issue to do with your physical or mental health.

Please read on to find out answers to questions that children and young people commonly ask about seeing a GP.

Can I see a doctor by myself?

Yes. There is no reason why you can’t ask to see the doctor by yourself. They might want to find out why and might encourage you to tell your parent or carer. But they should try to understand how you feel if you don’t want to.

Does the GP have to tell my parents?

No. The GP will respect you as an individual, and your rights to a private and confidential consultation. They might encourage you to tell your parents or carers about your medical condition, if they feel this would benefit you. However, they should try to understand how you feel if you don’t want your parents to know.

Do I have to use the same GP as my parents?

No, you can see any GP, even those who work from a different practice to the one used by your parents. If you’re over the age of 16, you can register with a GP by yourself. You can find a list of local GPs in your area on the NHS website. If they are accepting new patients, they will ask you to fill in a registration form. Some GPs also ask to see a proof of identity like a passport or proof of address like a mobile phone bill.

If you’re under the age of 16, your parents or carers should register you at a doctor’s surgery, but it doesn’t have to be same one as them or the rest of your family. If you don't want your parents to know, you can still register by yourself but you might be asked some questions to make sure you're okay.

How do I make an appointment?

Visits to the surgery are free, but you'll usually need to make an appointment. Before you make an appointment to see your GP, consider the alternatives. Your local pharmacist may be able to give you the help you need, so you won't have to spend time waiting for an appointment. Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals, and may offer a wider range of health services than you might think. Read about the services that pharmacists provide.

If you think you do need to see a GP you can make an appointment by calling your GP surgery and speaking to the receptionist or going there in person.

You can also book appointments online via your GP’s website or via the NHS Online Bexley mobile phone app, although you will need to register first with the practice to use these services.

When you speak to the receptionist, they will probably ask you who the appointment is for and why. This is to make sure that you see the right person at the right time.

If it’s something personal then you don’t have to tell them why - just say it’s for something personal. You can also ask to see a male or female doctor if this would make you feel more comfortable.

If you’re struggling with anxiety or feeling worried, try explaining this when you make the appointment to see if they can help in any way. 

It can take a while to build yourself up to seeing someone, but it’s so important because then you’ll be able to get help to feel better. 

How can I get the best out of my GP appointment?

GPs spend an average of 8-10 minutes with each patient. Once you've got an appointment, plan ahead to make sure you cover everything you want to discuss.

Before you see the GP, write a list of problems, starting with the most important. List your symptoms, so you don’t forget them. Write down when they started and what makes them better or worse during a 24-hour period. If you have a complicated problem, ask for a longer appointment when you book.

You can bring a friend or relative if you're worried.

If you're feeling nervous or stressed, read this information on anxiety and stress for ways to cope.

Be honest about what you think may be causing the problem, and don’t be embarrassed. Your doctor will have seen and heard it all before.

Ask the GP to repeat and explain anything you don’t understand. If there are words you don’t understand, ask what they mean or get the doctor to write them down, so you can look them up later.

Be clear about what you want the GP to do, such as refer you to a specialist or prescribe a different medication. Be assertive if you need to, but always be polite. For more information, read about the specialist referrals and services your GP may recommend

If you and your GP decide you need to be referred for specialist tests or treatment, you usually have a right to choose which hospital and/or consultant led-team you go to

You may also find it useful to read information on What to ask the doctor?

What happens if I need help and the GP is closed?

In Bexley you can see a GP at one of the borough’s two GP hubs until 8pm each day, including at weekends and on bank holidays. To book an evening appointment, phone your GP practice during normal surgery hours or after that, call NHS 111.

You can also call 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but you don’t feel that the situation is life-threatening. In a real emergency, you can visit A&E.

Go online for more information on how to find the right care for you.

How do I change my GP?

Most doctors are great at their job and care about their patients a lot.

But, there are times when people either don’t get on with or feel uncomfortable with their doctor. You can always ask to see someone else, including a male or female doctor if you prefer, and you don’t have to give a reason. You may not be able to do this straight away and might have to wait for another appointment, so it’s better to say as early as possible.

For more information, see: Can I choose to see a male or female GP?

If you're not happy with your care or treatment, you can make a complaint online.

If you do decide to change your GP permanently, you will have to register with a new one. Go online to find out how.