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Thursday 20th June 2019

Don't be afraid to ask your GP questions

5th August 2011

Dr John Holden, Senior Medical Adviser, MDDUS, argues that patients must not be afraid to ask their GP to clarify instructions on medication or treatment.


Doctors are often puzzled why their patients sometime struggle to follow basic medical advice or fail to take prescriptions as instructed.

A factor in this could be as simple as communication failure with the patient not understanding what the GP meant.

Recent research has highlighted how the wording of medicine labels can be misread or misinterpreted, which has led to the British National Formulary recommending medicine labels should be improved “to ensure the wording is better understood by patients.”

But this has to go beyond labels.

It is crucial that doctors are clear and precise when issuing any written or verbal patient instructions.

Doctors can lose sight of the fact that patients are not as familiar as they are with medical instructions and some patients who fail to take their medicine may simply not understand how or when to take it or, why they should take it.

The need for clarity is even more important when it comes to telephone consultations because the lack of face-to-face contact can make it difficult for doctors to establish if advice has been listened to and understood.

But patients should also feel they can question the doctor and ask their GP to explain anything they have not fully understood.

The doctor-patient relationship should be a partnership, and patients are perfectly entitled to ask their doctor questions or raise concerns.

Good communication between doctors and patients is a fundamental step in reducing the problem of patient non-compliance.


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Steve Wilkins

Friday 5th August 2011 @ 16:18

Great topic. The evidence supports the article's premise that patients in fact ask very few important questions during their doctor's visit. I addressed this issue on my blog Mind the Gap at http://wp.me/pGXmn-da


Thursday 18th August 2011 @ 11:01

Whilst it would be expensive for the NHS to employ communication companies or similar to help get these messages across, i think it would be money well invested. It would save lives and stop preventable relapses that occur when patients don't take their medicines properly!

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