GP consultation left me confused

I thought I would share with you a recent telephone consultation I had with a GP, which left me more confused and unsure about my illness.

My story

Over the last few years, I’ve had many experiences with different GPs. But one recently sticks out to me. I went to the doctor due to issues with my periods skipping every few months and my cramps getting so bad that I was stuck on the toilet in agony for hours every few weeks (at the midpoint and start of my cycles when I had one).

The GP referred me for an ultrasound scan at the hospital. The staff there were all very nice to me. The person who performed the scan told me I would receive the results within seven days. Speedy!

Delayed results: I didn’t understand the GP reporting system

However, four weeks later, I had heard nothing. I didn’t know who to call at the hospital, so I rang my GP practice. I wondered if they had received the scan results instead of me. The receptionist told me that they had received the scan results three weeks ago. Rather than apologise, she blamed me for not having phoned them earlier. I didn’t know I was supposed to call them.

The receptionist could not give me the results directly, so she made a telephone call appointment for me to speak to a GP. Sadly, I could not talk to my usual GP. I was given an appointment with a GP at a different practice.

When I spoke to the GP, rather than summarise or explain what the report said about me, they read the information out word for word. For example, ‘the uterus measures x mm, left ovary measures x mm with 15 follicles measuring between….’

I understood none of it. What did it mean? Was this good or bad news?

The GP finally told me, ‘yeah, you have PCOS, so I am going to prescribe metformin as this can help.’ And before I knew it, the call was over.

What is wrong with me?

Consequently, I don’t know how to proceed aside from taking the metformin. I don’t understand what is wrong with me. To be honest, I daren’t start googling these things as I worry about what I might learn!

What do I want healthcare professionals to learn from my experience?

  • I think more explanation as to what exactly the test results found would be useful.
  • I don’t need to know that my uterus measures 15mm.  That means nothing to me.
  • It would be helpful to know where my results come from.  Who should I be talking to about them?

What do I want other patients to learn from my experience?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can think of.
  • Don’t just wait around for them (GP practice) to get to you if it’s been longer than they said. Follow them up!

Understanding the reporting process between GP’s and other teams

We thought it might help to add additional information here that might support Jessica and other patients in a similar boat.

Initially, Jessica’s GP requested an ultrasound scan to learn what was wrong with her. An ultrasound scan is a probe placed on the abdomen (along with some jelly) to get some pictures of your internal organs. It is used to obtain pictures of unborn babies and help diagnose problems. 

A specialist healthcare professional performs the ultrasound. The specialist professional may be called a sonographer who is specialised to perform the test and write up the test results. If a GP requests the ultrasound scan, the results will be sent to them by the radiology department (where the scan took place). You will not receive the results directly. 

The GP will review the scan results and will tell you what has (if anything) been found. If you don’t hear anything from your GP practice after a week or two, it is always worth giving them a call to ask if your results have arrived.  

Your GP should tell you what the results are in a way that makes sense to you. In Jessica’s case, it would have been helpful to know what PCOS was and how metformin would help her. If there are various treatment options, the GP should talk through these with you and help you decide that is right for you. 

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