Your GP is an invaluable family resource.
It’s worth taking your relationship with them very seriously.
Why are GPs important?
Your GP is someone who has undergone intensive training over many years, sufficient to qualify them as a doctor and to provide medical advice, diagnoses (or potential diagnoses) and prescribe medication.
Specifically, in terms of young children, your GP will be able to help put your mind at rest and assure you that your child is healthy. That’s because it’s common for parents to, understandably, worry about the health of their children and most of those concerns subsequently prove to be nothing to be worried about.
Of course, sometimes your child may be unwell and your GP will help to resolve the problem either personally or by referral to a specialist.
Another important point where GPs help is in providing development monitoring. Your doctor (or healthcare nurse) is available to monitor things such as your child’s weight, height and cognitive development etc.
For all these reasons and many others, selecting the right GP is important.
What factors should you consider?
In some cases, if there is only one GP in your area you may not have a choice but if you do, think about:
- Remember that if your child is unwell, driving the extra distance to get a doctor you like when there are others much closer, might not be convenient or a good idea;
- some doctors specialise in child medicine (paediatricians) and others may simply have a special affinity for kids’ illnesses. You can usually find out which doctors are “good with kids” locally by asking around other care providers or day-care centres;
- doctors surgeries can be rather frightening for younger children and if one has a little nicely decorated play area for kids, that might help;
- check out surgery hours and be sure they’ll be suitable based on your own timetable.
How to use your GP
Your local health authority may have slightly different practices and recommendations to others but generally speaking:
- if you have a serious concern about your child’s health, call your doctor sooner rather than later for advice. Avoid thinking “I’ll wait to see what happens overnight”;
- be clear about the role differences between your GP, local nursing and health care centres. For some routine checks, such as growth and weight of your baby, there may be post-natal services provided by bodies other than your GP;
- follow the advice given by your doctor, including that relating to the medication of your child. You do have the right to a second opinion if you have serious doubts but don’t simply ignore what they have said;
- remember that medical practice evolves and improves over time. It may be that your doctor’s recommendations differ from your own childhood experiences but follow them anyway;
- it may be critically important that you comply fully with your doctor’s advice. So, if you don’t understand something that has been said to you, do not be afraid to ask for a simplified explanation or simply a repetition of the advice. If you are not a native English speaker and your doctor cannot speak your language, you should take a translator with you to appointments.