ANXIETY DISORDERS FOUNDATION OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
SERVICE DIRECTORY FOR ANXIETY DISORDERS


Published by The Anxiety Disorders Foundation of Western Australia

Version 1.0 August 2001

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HOW TO GET WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR GENERAL PRACTITIONER

Kaye Miller GP

The information for this paper was collated from a group discussion held at a PADAWA (Panic Anxiety Disorder Association of W.A.) meeting on 26 August 2000. The author would like to thank all those who participated in this forum.

It is important for consumers to recognise that general practitioners are a diverse group of individuals with unique personalities, practice styles and professional interests. This diversity means that it is often difficult for consumers to identify which GP is right for them. Despite the complexity of choice, the following information may be helpful to consider when choosing a GP.

Positive Qualities of GP's that facilitate Doctor relationship.

  • Be willing to spend the time that is required to deal with the presenting problem and to explore the context of this presentation so that the symptoms become understandable and normalised for both the GP and the patient.


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  • Have good communication skills, in particular show a willingness to listen to the person’s story.


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  • Demonstrate a medical understanding of the signs and symptoms of panic and anxiety and present a range of treatment options for the patient.


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  • Know which physical illnesses may mimic the symptoms of panic and anxiety and investigate such symptoms as appropriate.


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  • Keep good records so that care is not compromised if the GP is away or unavailable.


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  • Have the capacity to form a relationship, which is based on trust, openness, honesty and mutual respect. It is important that the patient can feel comfortable in “being themselves” without fear of being judged.


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  • Being available on a consistent basis so that continuity of care is protected and relationships can be formed.


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  • Have available a range of resources such as educational videos, patient handouts and self- assessment tools.


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  • Have friendly, helpful receptionists.

Qualities that detract from the formation of a good relationship

  • GP’s who persistently look at their watch throughout the consultation thereby communicating that they do not have the time to listen.


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  • GP’s who have more than one consultation “on the go” at the same time.


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  • GP’s who automatically reach for a prescription pad or start writing a referral letter as soon as they hear what the presenting problem is.


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  • GP’s who ignore the side effects of drugs and discourage patients from knowing about their medications.


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  • GP’s who prescribe medication with minimal discussion and do not offer non- pharmacological treatment strategies.


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  • GP’s who do not plan any follow up.


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  • GP’s who are “itinerant” so that establishment of a therapeutic relationship is impossible.


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  • GP’s who focus on physical symptoms and ignore the person experiencing these symptoms.

Strategies for best GP care

 GP’s aim to look after a person’s physical and mental health over along continuum. Your existing GP, who knows your history, is a good starting point. Don’t expect one appointment to cover everything, mental health problems require time and persistence.

Choosing a new GP

  • Contact a local surgery and ask the receptionist if any of their GP’s have a special interest in mental health or counselling. Ask if new patients or patients with complex problems can book a longer consultation time (usually 30 minutes).


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  • Ask how long the GP has been at the practice and wether or not they are permanent.


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  • Enquire about the fees (medicare rebates apply so it is really the “gap” between the fee charged and the rebate that you need to be aware of).


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  • If you are not satisfied, try another surgery.

The First Appointment

  • Book a longer consultation.


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  • Think about what you want before you go to the appointment.


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  • Write down important points that you need to discuss with your GP.


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  • Tell the GP you booked a longer appointment.


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  • Tell your story to the GP, then say what you want from the GP.

Hopefully you have found the first appointment fruitful. Trust your gut feelings. Do you think that you can work with this GP to improve your mental health or not? Remember that relationships develop over time and your GP should be someone you see more or less frequently over many years.


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