Appointments System: More Information

  • Queuing is never fun. Queuing when you feel sick or are in pain has to be worse. We cannot ask those who feel they have to be seen that day to stand outside the front doors. They deserve to be able to call from home, get immediate advice from a doctor and plan when they come in. That’s humane. That’s Right Care at the Right Time. Furthermore, the NHS started on a founding principal of Need, not want. So just because we have an empty appointment slot later in the day doesn’t mean you should get it because that’s convenient for you; we’re saving it for that unwell individual who really NEEDS it. If you think you’re that person, then please tell us, but remember, it may mean speaking to the doctor first on the phone. Remember, coming to the practice in person carries no advantage over phoning in when seeking an appointment.

more information about appointments

  • Tell the receptionist as much as they need to know to help you. This is key to giving you the Right Care at the Right Time with the Right Person. Please see the flow diagram here. We are going to have a variety of different appointments available each day. Which one you get will depend on what you need. Everyday Doctors see patients who should have seen the nurse, or called the hospital, or could have self referred themselves. This takes up valuable appointment time that someone else could have used. It is also easily avoidable if you’re willing to tell the receptionist why you’re calling the practice. We understand that sometimes you may not want to say it out loud at the reception desk and so we will have a discrete list at reception that will allow you to indicate to the receptionist what the problem is, or you can ask to speak to the receptionist in private. Rest assured, our receptionists (and all staff) are bound by the same confidentiality rules as the doctors and the nurses. If you still feel you would rather not explain to the receptionist the issue, you will be given a telephone appointment to explain your issue to a doctor who will then book you a clinically appropriate appointment. This is not a shortcut to a sooner appointment.
  • Not issuing repeat prescriptions in normal appointments. We have a separate document explaining this change which you can access here: Repeat Prescriptions
  • If we want to offer Right Care at the Right Time, we need to know as soon as possible what the problem is. Sometimes, we may not be the right part of the NHS to be seen in. Depending on your clinical need, you may be booked an appointment to see a doctor, or you may be called back by a doctor later that morning or afternoon. These are for problems you consider urgent, meaning you believe you need advice or to be seen on the same day. Please consider alternative sources of advice such as NHS 111 and your pharmacist. If either of them suggest you call us, then please do.
  • Booking appointments online is the easiest way to do so for planned appointments. You cannot get a same day appointment online (unless someone cancels last minute and we re-release the appointment), but urgent appointments have to be booked by phone via reception. You will still be able to phone in and book appointments also; appointments become available both online and via reception at the exact same time. This allows you to book appointments at the Right Time. Please be mindful to ensure you book the Right Care with the Right Person.
  • Administrative tasks including medical certificates, employment medicals, adoption medicals etc are considered routine planned work. Therefore, please plan ahead and book a routine telephone appointment or face to face appointment as needed. Medical certificates can be back dated to the date that you book the appointment, even if the appointment itself happens at a later date. If the work is subject to a private fee, it should not be done in normal NHS clinics so please call and discuss with reception. We understand that these forms often have financial implications, but this should not take priority over the clinical needs of our patients, especially in cases where you have had the opportunity to plan ahead.
  • Telephone appointments may be the easiest way to get hold of a doctor and maintain continuity of care. Normally, you will be able to book a telephone appointment sooner than a face to face appointment but please only do so when you believe your problem can be dealt with over the phone. Telephone appointments do not have a specific time: they will be either in the morning or afternoon of a given day. The doctor will call from a withheld number and will try a second time after at least 10minutes should they be unsuccessful. Please ensure we have your correct telephone number. Again, a telephone appointment is NOT a shortcut to a sooner face to face appointment. If you subsequently need to come in, this will be at a clinically appropriate appointment in the future.
  • Cancelling an appointment you no longer need or can make is common courtesy. We understand that mistakes happen, life does unexpected things and sometimes these things are just beyond your control. But repeat offenders will not be excused and may be asked to register elsewhere where the appointment system is more to their liking.
  • Arriving on time makes surgeries run late and has a knock on effect on the next patient who is also seen late. We will try to be flexible regarding things beyond your control but you may be asked to rebook, or you may be given the opportunity to be seen at the end of the surgery (this is at the doctor’s discretion and is determined primarily by what the doctor has to do after the surgery). We are often told by patients arriving late that surgeries frequently run late, and that it is therefore unfair that we don’t see you if you arrive late. We understand this frustration, but remember that if we are running late, it was because someone needed more of our attention than anyone had planned for. We know it has an impact on you and we apologise for that. But don’t forget that one day it might be you or your loved one who needs that extra time, and you won’t want us to rush on that day.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this far. General Practice across the United Kingdom is facing unprecedented workload at a time when there are not enough GPs to do it all. Our response to this is to work smarter and streamline how we offer appointments. I know that this means some of you will be disappointed as you won’t get your needs met as immediately as you did under our old system (but they will be met in the correct time frame) and the advantage of our new system is that we will be able to safely and promptly see those who are unwell and need same day access to a GP. And we will meet all your needs by giving you the Right Care with the Right person at the Right time.


Dr C Ferdinand

Partner at The Lewisham Care Partnership

Clinical Lead St Johns Medical Centre