Whether it is your initial GP appointment, a consultation with a specialist at an outpatient appointment or a mental health assessment there are a few things you can prepare in advance that will help you to get the most out of time with the health professional.
Make some notes of things you want to discuss or that you should remember to tell your doctor, such as a list of medicines you use. Take those notes with you on the day and then tick each point off during your appointment.
Do not be afraid to ask questions about things you find unclear. Let the health professional explain it to you until you are sure you understand it. If you like, take someone with you as support.
Below we have listed some example questions that you may find useful.
Checklist of questions to ask at your appointment
Tests, such as blood tests or scans
- What are the tests for?
- How and when will I get the results?
- Who do I contact if I do not get the results?
- Are there other ways to treat my condition?
- What do you recommend?
- Are there any side effects or risks? If so, what are they?
- How long will I need treatment for?
- How will I know if the treatment is working?
- How effective is this treatment?
- What will happen if I do not have any treatment?
- Is there anything I should stop or avoid doing?
- Is there anything I can do to help myself?
- What happens next?
- Do I need to come back and see you? If so, when?
- Who do I contact if things get worse?
- Do you have any written information?
- Where can I go for more information?
- Is there a support group or any other source of help?
You can also read our advice on seeing the specialist before having an operation.
Before your appointment
- Write down your 2 or 3 most important questions.
- List or bring all your medicines and pills – including vitamins and supplements.
- Write down details of your symptoms, including when they started and what makes them better or worse.
- Ask your hospital or surgery for an interpreter or communication support if needed.
- Ask a friend or family member to come with you, if you like.
During your appointment
- Do not be afraid to ask if you do not understand. For example: "Can you say that again? I still do not understand."
- If you do not understand any words, ask for them to be written down and explained.
- Write things down, or ask a family member or friend to take notes.
Before you leave your appointment
- You have covered everything on your list.
- You understand, for example: "Can I just check I understood what you said?"
- You know what should happen next – and when. Write it down.
- Who to contact if you have any more problems or questions.
- About support groups and where to go for reliable information.
- For copies of letters written about you – you're entitled to see these.
After your appointment, do not forget the following
- Write down what you discussed and what happens next. Keep your notes.
- Book any tests that you can and put the dates in your diary.
- What happens if I'm not sent my appointment details?
- Can I have the results of any tests? If you do not get the results when you expect – ask for them. Ask what the results mean.
Easyhealth has developed easy-read leaflets that will help make a doctor's appointment easier. You can read or listen to the information on the Easyhealth website.
Many charities have also developed condition-specific questionnaires that you can use as a starting point for your conversation with a specialist. For example, look at the questions from the British Heart Foundation or Macmillan Cancer Support.
A pharmacist can also help you answer questions about medicines you have been prescribed.