GPs: The alternatives
You've registered with a GP, but what if you're not entirely happy?
You can change your GP at any time without having to give a reason and you don't need any consent to do this. If you tell your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) that you want to change doctors, you should be given details of how to do so and be provided with a list of alternative GPs.
Take your medical card, NHS number, or proof of your address, to the new GP to be registered and then you can make an appointment immediately. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able find a new GP, but the PCT should be able to help you find one if this is the case.
Getting a second opinion
If you're not quite happy with your doctor's diagnosis, treatment or advice, it's possible to ask them to arrange a second opinion with another doctor or consultant. You don't have a legal right to a second opinion though, so if your GP refuses your request you might want to consider changing them altogether. If you do get referred for a second opinion, you can't insist on seeing a particular doctor, but you shouldn't be referred to someone you don't wish to see.
Before asking for a second opinion, it's worth asking your GP or consultant to go over anything you don't understand or are unhappy about. If you request a second opinion, be aware that this will not take priority, and you may have to wait. It's also likely that the doctor or consultant you are referred to will reach the same conclusions.
There are also other options you can consider for your health concerns:
- You can ring the NHS Direct advice service. You will be put through to a trained nurse, who can give you information on all health-related issues. The service is also available online;
- The NHS Best Treatments website outlines the various options you can consider for your condition, to help you make an informed decision on your treatment;
- Chemists offer services ranging from prescription dispensing to pregnancy testing, and pharmacists can also advise on minor ailments. You can talk to your pharmacist in confidence and don't need to make an appointment;
- Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) provides confidential advice and support to patients on a range of health-related matters. For more information contact your surgery and ask for details of PALS;
- Complementary therapy or alternatives medicines, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, are gradually becoming more widely available. Ask your GP what's available in your area on the NHS;
- Genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics and Brook Advisory Centres offer a wide range of free and confidential sexual health advice and contraception for young people.
Although these all provide useful services, they aren't always substitutes for your GP. The NHS Direct service, for example, can't prescribe medical treatment or guarantee a totally accurate diagnosis over the phone. At best, these options should be used in conjunction with a visit to your GP to discuss your choices.
Making a complaint about your GP
You have the right to complain about any aspect of treatment you have received from your GP, and it's possible to complain on behalf of someone else. You should make your complaint as soon as possible - the time limit for complaints is usually six months from the date the incident occurred, or six months from the date that you first became aware of it. It may be possible for this time limit to be longer because of grief or trauma, however, it must still be possible to investigate the complaint. If you e seeking financial compensation you will need to take separate legal action.
The easiest way to sort out your complaint is to talk about it with the person involved. Most GPs have their own complaints procedure, which should be available from reception. Follow the guidelines and return it to the appropriate person. You should get a reply to your complaint from the surgery within 10 working days.
If you don't feel comfortable doing this, you can write to, or telephone, the complaints manager at your Primary Care Trust who can advise you. Another option is to contact the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS), which is a free, confidential and independent service to help you make a formal complaint about your GP. You can contact ICAS through NHS Direct and contact numbers for local ICAS offices are listed on the Department of Health website. Alternatively, you may find it helpful to seek advice from your local PALS. They may be able to help you resolve a less serious complaint by informal negotiation, but will be unable to take up a formal complaint on your behalf.
For those not satisfied with the response from the initial complaint, the matter can be put up for an independent review or to the health service ombudsman. After the complaint reaches the independent review stage you will no longer have the right to appeal. But you can seek a judicial review, which would mean taking the case to a court of law and which could end up being very expensive.
Thanks to Citizens Advice Bureau for help with this article.
Written by Muzakkir Iqbal
Read the comment policy
Use our free question and answer service and speak to an expert!