Using SimplyConsult to book an online GP appointment

Your guide to online GP services

All about the newest way you can speak to a GP, from online booking to what happens during an appointment.

Healthy Living / Your guide to online GP appointments

Clinically reviewed on 27/4/2022 by Bryony Lathbury

If you're looking to get a GP appointment, you now have a host of options available to you. Face-to-face appointments still have a massive role in healthcare, phone appointments are great time-savers, and then there are online GP appointments or video consultations. The digital age of smartphones and connected devices has meant everyone, and everything, is a lot more accessible, and that includes doctors. You don't need to sit in a waiting room or stay listening to hold music, you can do it all through an app. 

 

This guide walks you through the online GP service. We outline what the service is, what the appointment experience is like, the type of symptoms and issues people are getting checked, and what happens after your appointment. 

 

You can use the contents to jump to specific sections.  

What is an online GP?

 

An online GP is a digital health service offering remote appointments and consultations with registered GPs using video technology. Appointments can be held over smartphones or tablets and can often be provided on the same day they're requested. The service differs from phone appointments as it offers a face-to-face experience, and patients can show visible symptoms on the call.

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The differences between GP appointment types

 

If you're in the UK, you have a few different options when looking to speak to a GP...

A female GP having an in-person appointment with a patient

In-person appointments

 

 

The first option is booking a face-to-face, in-person appointment at your registered practice. You can do this in advance, but availability can be limited. Some practices offer same-day emergency appointments but again, spaces are limited, and you could be on hold for a period of time without any luck.

Advantages of in-person GP appointments

  • Hands-on and the GP can check physical symptoms there and then
  • Familiarity and knowledge of your medical records
  • Adds a personal touch

Disadvantages to in-person GP appointments

  • Can be difficult to get an appointment when you need one
  • Normally appointments are only during standard working hours
  • Appointment duration can be limited to 10/15 minutes
  • You have to go into the practice and waiting room
A male patient having a telephone GP appointment from his sofa

Telephone appointments

 

The second option is a telephone appointment. This can sometimes be requested when ringing the practice. The GP will call you at the arranged time and you can discuss your symptoms, needs, or reason for calling. This method saves the need to go into the practice and sit in the waiting room, you can get on with your day and wait for the GP to call.

Advantages of telephone GP appointments

  • You can take the phone call anywhere so it doesn't overly impact your day
  • They're normally easier to get than in-person appointments

Disadvantages of telephone GP appointments

  • It isn't face-to-face so you have to describe your symptoms
  • The GP won't be able to see any physical issues
  • Not always given an exact time so may miss the phone call or have to be waiting for a call throughout the day
A woman having an online GP appointment sat at her dining room table

Online GP appointments

 

The third option available is online GP services. Conducted via a video call, you don't get the physical examination of an in-person appointment but you do get a face-to-face conversation. Appointments can be made the same day or at a time that fits your schedule, and a lot of online GP services operate out of hours as well.

Advantages of online GP appointments

  • You can get an appointment quickly and at a time that suits you
  • You can have a face-to-face conversation without having to leave your house
  • Some providers let you choose the GP you'd like to see (gender, specialism, etc)
  • No waiting rooms and, depending on your provider, there are no appointment length limits. 

Disadvantages of online GP appointments

  • Not a physical examination so you may still need to see a GP in person
  • Some online GP services can be pricy
  • Because it isn't your practice, you may not see a GP that you're familiar with

What can an online GP help with?

 

So you've decided you need to see a GP, or maybe you haven't. Maybe you've been putting it off because it's not worth wasting anyone's time, including your own. Well, this is where things are changing, because the quick and easy nature of online GP appointments means if you have a health concern, you can get it looked at. No more delays and no more worrying.

 

Seeing a GP over a video call is different to a GP in-person, some health concerns may require a physical examination but that doesn't mean the online GP isn't suitable. The following is an example of the types of issues and symptoms people use the service for:

Skin disorders

Ear, Nose, Throat

Joint & muscular

Women's health

Children's health

Mental wellbeing

Men's health

Man using his mobile phone

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Man and woman smiling at each other in the sunshine

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How to book an online GP

 

The ways to book an online GP appointment vary based on the service you're using. If your surgery offers video appointments as an option, you can talk to them about being set up and then request an appointment.

 

If you have online GP appointments as part of your health plan, like the 24/7 online GP service through Simplyhealth, the process is streamlined to get you an appointment as soon as possible. You should be able to get registered and access the booking system within minutes, and if you're already registered, it'll be even quicker.

 

When you book a GP appointment with Simplyhealth, you have choices. These include being able to specify the gender of the GP you'd like to see, and the ability to view GP profiles before selecting the appointment. The profiles can include education, qualifications, interests, and specialist areas. 

 

The booking process for Simplyhealth's online GP service

 

  1. Download the SimplyConsult app from your device's app store

  2. Log in using your Simplyhealth details, or register for an account (which should only take a few minutes)

  3. Pick the service you need and select your symptoms

  4. Choose an appointment at a time that works for you with your preferred GP (gender and biography available to view before booking)

  5. Book the appointment, and you're all ready. You'll get a text message 15 minutes before your appointment time, then just open the app at the right time and click join.

What happens during your appointment?

 

If you've got an online GP appointment booked, you'll need your device and the relevant app installed. Once you have that ready, all you need to do is join at your appointment time. 

 

The appointment structure is very similar to when you have a physical appointment at your surgery, but instead of sitting in a waiting room, you can be sat anywhere! You open the app, click join, and the video starts...

 

First up is introductions. The GP will introduce themselves and ask you a few personal details to make sure they're talking to the right person.

 

The GP will then ask you about your reason for the appointment, your symptoms, a bit of your medical history and any other relevant details like current medication. They'll be looking to gain as much information as possible to understand your concern and potentially provide a diagnosis and solution. It helps to write down what you want to talk about before the appointment so you have a guide, it can be easy to forget symptoms in the moment!

 

The GP will then provide you with their diagnosis if one is required. They'll explain everything to you, and then the final part of the appointment is 'what happens next?'. This could be a variety of options, including: 

  • Prescribing you medication
  • Recommending a physical appointment with your day-to-day GP
  • Requesting a referral letter
  • General advice and reassurance

 

And that's your appointment. You then just digitally walk out of the surgery, or hang up.

Online GPs, prescriptions, and referrals

 

You should check the terms of the service you are using, but in most cases, you can get a prescription through your online GP appointment. If you are prescribed medication on your video appointment, it can be sent digitally to your nominated pharmacy and it should be ready for collection within a few hours, depending on the time of the appointment and opening hours of pharmacies.

 

In some cases, the GP will request you have a physical examination before prescribing medication, and if that occurs, you'll need to book an appointment at your local surgery or have a private appointment. You'll be made aware of this during your online appointment. 

 

If, after your appointment, the GP feels it's appropriate, a referral letter can be issued as well. There may be some cases where you have to see your own GP first, but that can be discussed during your appointment.

Woman collecting prescription at pharmacy

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