A general practitioner (GP) is your family doctor and is the main point of contact for general healthcare for NHS Scotland.
GPs are highly skilled doctors who support patients throughout their lives. They help you to manage your health, prevent illness, and are trained in all aspects of general medicine.
Your GP practice is the first place you should go for:
- GP consultations
- Clinics for long term conditions such as asthma, heart disease and COPD
- Cervical screening
- Contraceptive services
- Child health surveillance (check-ups)
- Maternity services
GPs also provide the link to further health services and work closely with other health and social care workers.
Your local GP practice will also have a multidisciplinary team who can help you get the care you need.
Who can use GP services?
You can attend your local NHS Scotland GP practice if you are registered with a GP practice in Scotland or if you live in Scotland.
Who will I see?
You may ask to see or speak to a doctor, but nowadays GP practices have a whole range of different clinical experts, including:
- general practice nurses
- mental health nurses
When you phone, practice staff will ask you for some general information and help you to decide who the best person is for you to see or speak to.
How do I use the service?
In most cases, you need to book an appointment ahead of time to speak with your GP or another member of your practice team.
Appointments can be made online through some practice websites or by phoning the practice directly.
Before you phone your GP practice, you should consider whether you can manage your condition safely yourself by getting advice from our self-help guides or by speaking with your local pharmacist, or local optometrist for eye problems.
Your local GP or a trained member of the practice team will give you advice and provide medicine if needed. They may need to refer you to another healthcare professional such as your dentist, optometrist or another NHS service if they feel your condition needs further investigation or specialist care.
Role of the receptionist
When you phone your local GP practice you will normally speak to a receptionist. They can provide basic information on services, test results and can direct you to the right person, depending on your health issue or query.
When making an appointment, they will need to know:
- your name
- your address
- your date of birth
- your contact details
This is to ensure they know they are talking to the right person. This also ensures that if they need to call you back for any reason, they have got the information they need to do that.
Receptionists need to have an outline of the reason you are calling. This means you might need to share some of your own health information.
Everyone who provides an NHS service is bound to keep your private health information confidential. You don't need to share very detailed information but you could think before you call about how you might describe your symptoms to a friend.
Practice receptionists, patient advisors and care co-ordinators all have an important role in supporting you to access the care you need. The information you give to this team helps the GP or other healthcare professional to plan their workload for the day, so that patients in the greatest need are dealt with first.
Reception teams do not make clinical decisions, but they have had training to help patients get to the most appropriate service.
Reception teams are there to help, please treat them with courtesy.
Where is my local GP practice?