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UK GPs via the phone: what have we a right to expect?


Fine, thank you
I have a GP who has been very supportive with my ME and very helpful in treating symptoms, getting referrals, writing letters of support to help me get benefits... when I am able to visit him in the surgery.

I am mostly housebound and his surgery is a mile away. When I visit, I ask for a sideroom to wait where I can lie on a couch to rest while waiting and avoid secondary infections (with his agreement and encouragement), so he can see with his own eyes what it costs me physically to visit.

However, when I phone, for things that shouldn't require him to examine me or when I'm too sick to come to the surgery and get help, he sometimes doesn't phone me back. When he does, he is clearly in a hurry and has squeezed me in between patients rather than allocating me a slot as he would have if I had turned up in person.

Because I'm so focused on getting my physical problem fixed in the time available, I haven't yet discussed this with him. It seems insane to me that a patient too ill to come into the surgery with what he clearly understands to be chronic and severely disabling condition should not be given at least the same priority as someone who is well enough to come in.

UK people - do you know if there is some sort of NHS thing where they don't get paid for a phone consultation or something? My doctor is a good guy, not an utter bastard and I can't understand why he is doing this. I'd like to approach him, but with some understanding of his situation so that I can help things go better.

I've been trying to access him this morning over a pain issue (I'm in pain and having problems with what he prescribed me) and only had his secretary call me back with an answer that wasn't helpful given what has happened with my pain in the three hours since I called.


Senior Member
I don't think you can normally expect much.

We've got a 'supportive' GP - but telephone stuff is always a pain. We're often expected to go in to the surgery when it doesn't seem strictly necessary.

Maybe you have additional right if you're bed bound, but by my low standards, getting a call back within 3 hours seems pretty good.

Were you booking an appointment, or just asking for a call back? If I want to book an appointment I often have to wait a week to do so, so maybe they were just slipping you in between appointments to save you waiting? If you want a longer chat you could try to make it clear that you want to book a full appointment and have it take place over the phone (maybe you already do this?).

They'll always seem rushed though - that's just the way things are. It's the same for appointments when you're in the room.

Sometimes I do expect too little with these things. Maybe you can insist on more... maybe not?