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Guest Post: Getting the most out of your hospital visits

Zec Richardson
Zec Richardson Member Posts: 152 Pioneering

Zec is one of our community champions, he helps keep the community safe, friendly and running well.  He also runs the blog Sat On My Butt talking about beards, lifestyle and being a disabled person. Today he is talking to us about getting the most out of your hospital visits.

We have all had that feeling of disappointment when we leave the hospital because we didn’t ask a question or tell the consultant something, I have been there many times and despite saying it wouldn’t happen again, it did.

Bearded man - Zac - looking away from the camera and smiling

An appointment to see a specialist is valuable, we don’t often get to see the consultant and when we do get into the consultation room we often then find out it’s a doctor we haven’t seen before. Of course that question then arises “so tell me what’s been going on” and many of us don’t have straight forward or short medical histories, but we hope that the fresh eyes on the notes will produce a cure or better result. We sometimes only get an appointment at an outpatient clinic a few times a year and by then the junior doctors have rotated to a different department and so continuity of care suffers.

However it is important that we get our questions answered, the doctor may not think so but for us it’s on the top of our list of priorities and it’s your right to be heard, consultants are powerful people, many can be intimidating and they are used to getting their own way, they are on a time limit in clinic and have most probably already done their ward rounds and have surgery still planned for later that day. So they need to review our case and tell us what the next step is and they want this to be quick so clinic doesn’t over run, so how do we get heard?

A few tips:

  • Make a list of questions that you want to ask
  • Make a list of any new symptoms
  • Don’t be afraid to stop the consultant if you don’t understand
  • If you’re not 100% happy with the treatment or surgery being offered, say so because it’s your body
  • Take someone with you who understands your health problems
  • I have even marked in pen areas where the pain is worse, sounds silly but I sometimes forget all the places
  • If you’re not happy with your consultant, say so. They won’t be offended and will refer you to a colleague
  • Be polite always and never raise your voice.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you did a Google search and it has raised some questions or possible treatments
Hospital room with three beds

Once I even wrote a letter to my consultant because I felt that I wasn’t being heard, this can be emailed and the email address can be obtained by phoning the hospital and asking to be put through to their secretary. I also took a copy of the letter along to my next appointment for reference. I’m sure the waiting room was full of sighs as my appointment over ran because I ended up spending an hour with the orthopaedic consultant that day. I don’t recommend routinely taking up their time like that, but this was a discussion about whether amputation was worth considering.

So remember, it’s your health, it’s your appointment, make sure you are heard and make sure you are happy with what is said, however always remember that the man or woman in front of you has spent many years of hard work to get where they are and they know (rarely they don’t) what they are doing.

What do you think of Zec's tips? What advice would you give to others about hospital and doctor's appointments? Let us know now.


  • Alex
    Alex Scope Posts: 1,305 Pioneering
    Great post Zec, thanks for sharing!

    Here's a tip from Twitter:

  • Jeffery_George
    Jeffery_George Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Some great tips Zec, especially regarding making a list of questions and speaking up if you're unhappy. I also think if you're feeling uneasy or confused about any aspects of what is being discussed you need to speak up, for your own peace of mind.
  • Janmadill28
    Janmadill28 Member Posts: 15 Connected
    Ask for a copy of the letter they are sending to your GP. If it doesn't cover what was said to u query it.
  • foxuk
    foxuk Member Posts: 102 Pioneering
    You must have experienced different consultants than I have. Being polite and cooperative doesn't always work.

    Our bodies are our bodies and whatever the medical professionals think it is only us who can make valid informed decisions on what courses of action to take.

    Orthopaedics is only one step above Anaesthetics in the speciality hierarchy - they are nicknamed the 'Carpenters' by other specialists and over compensate with arrogance and bluster - or at least a large minority do.

    Just putting in my two pennyworth so that others who may not get so productive outcomes don't feel isolated.

    Yesterday our GP visited and we found out that surgery needed by my wife could have been carried out safely TEN years ago but the incompetence of the consultant led to the wrong information being given which would have made it life threatening.

    Bad consultants exist and remember that there's a top of the class and a bottom of the class - a comment made by our (now retired) GP after reading one consultant's letter.
  • Janmadill28
    Janmadill28 Member Posts: 15 Connected
    I've found the majority of consultants don't leave enough time to talk to you and even less time to look at you. They don't appear to understand chronic fatigue or pain is not solved by tablets all the time. 
  • quinrah
    quinrah Member Posts: 22 Courageous
    Great post and great tips. I agree with how helpful it is to make lists. I also recommend having a dedicated notebook that you use so you can check back on past conversations if you need to and have all your info in one place.
  • Zec Richardson
    Zec Richardson Member Posts: 152 Pioneering
    No @foxuk my orthopaedic consultant is blunt and uncooperative and very uninterested but I meet him equally. 
    I don't leave until I have said what I want to say and also what I want to know, they orthopaedic guys are like the jocks of the consultant world. They are cocky, blunt and think they are God but I stay polite, but very firm and they understand now that they can't fob me off with the least amount of work and or information. 
    The poor guy looks so worried when I wheel in but he knows that in order to get me back out of the door, he has to play ball. It's my body, it's my health and its my appointment. 
    I always smile, thank him and shake his hand before leaving. 
  • Nystagmite
    Nystagmite Member Posts: 603 Pioneering
    Thanks for this post. I've had very mixed consultations. Including the one where I was waiting around for 3 hours to be tested for something, got tested, diagnosed, didn't get told what it was and just got shoved out the door and then discharged. How rude!

    Thankfully, the last time I was diagnosed with someone, he did take his time to explain (in plain English) what this means.
  • Dominique
    Dominique Member Posts: 16 Connected
    Trusting your doctors is the best thing you could ever do. I don't like talking to doctors with my carers (I have CP with a speech problem), so I use my computer or iPad to explain the specifics such that we can then talk. Don't be scared to say how it really is, because normal for you is normal, and they will take you seriously. My doctors have always understood my speech, and I've seen almost every GP in my practice! 

    If you believe in your doctors and in your health professionals then your carers, especially if they are homecare, have to do what they have said to you to do, if you of course tell them. You become respected by your carers as someone who's on the side of doctors and your carers' more naive opinions no longer matter. I have found this to be a very good thing because sometimes carers in uniform like to come above you and be the boss of your care, but your personal care or your leisure care are your say, not someone else's - not anyone else's like your carer's. When you accept the doctor in your life you gain a friend and advisor because they know about your body and mind and can resolve your problems. They are above carers and care agencies who must take instructions. Open up to your doctor, but not necessarily your carers, about your medical body and mind and about your medical problems. It works!   

  • Zec Richardson
    Zec Richardson Member Posts: 152 Pioneering
    Unfortunately @Dominique not all doctors and consultants behave in a way that gains trust. 
    Many people have left an appointment feeling worse, many are not believed or taken seriously and that is very damaging. 
    I would love e to have a doctor or consultant whom I trusted and had a relationship with that was helpful towards my on going care and treatment. 

    I hate to say that there are few very decent consultants who truly care and work with their patients
  • Dominique
    Dominique Member Posts: 16 Connected
    That's a fair point, Zec.


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