3. Act immediately! Get a GP appointment

Be brave; pick up the phone, call your GP and request an appointment.

At this stage, you might encounter some barriers, so here’s advice on how to deal with each one:

Engaged phone lines

It may be that you struggle to get through on the phone, or are unable to call when phonelines open first thing in the morning. Remember you can also book GP appointments online, or through the NHS App, which can be downloaded on your phone, tablet, or computer.

(This way, you also won’t need to explain your symptoms to receptionist!)

Protective Receptionists

There are a lot of lonely people out there who call their GP for a chat. Receptionists try to protect their GPs’ time.

Don’t take this personally. This barrier doesn’t apply to you.

The receptionist may ask you why you are calling: be prepared to tell them your symptoms or at least the general area of concern, (severe stomach pains, for example).

If they say that there won’t be a GP available for quite some time, explain that you may have signs of cancer and feel it is urgent. Receptionists can then use this information to prioritise. You will be amazed at the difference that this makes!

Phone appointment only

You may be informed you can only book a phone appointment.

If you’d rather discuss your concerns face to face, this is a fair, reasonable request. You might feel that it is easier to explain your symptoms, or that you feel more comfortable building a relationship with the GP when you meet in person.

Bear in mind that you might have to go through a ‘triage’ process, where the GP speaks to you over the phone first. At this stage, you can briefly explain your concerns and then request a face-to-face appointment.

Long waits

If the receptionist is only able to offer you an appointment several weeks ahead, there are ways of seeking more urgent support:

111 - if your symptoms are troubling you, call 111. They have out-of-hours nurses, doctors and GPs who may be able to speed along the process of diagnosis. They may refer you back to the GP, flagging to them that you need to be seen urgently, or they may arrange a GP appointment themselves.

Morning calls – call your GP surgery when they open first thing in the morning. They usually have some appointments available to be booked on the day.