Kids Health Info

GPs - find and choose a family doctor

  • A General Practitioner is also know as a GP, a local doctor or a family doctor.  GPs specialise in General Practice medicine and care for many different health problems in all age groups. Some GPs have extra qualifications in specialised medicine. It is important to have your own GP who knows you and has access to your complete medical history to provide you and your family with the best care.

    A regular GP can:

    • Get to know you, helping you feel more comfortable to talk openly about personal issues.
    • Develop an understanding of your health needs so they can decide the right choice of treatment.

    There may be times when you want to get a second opinion from another doctor. Your GP should be okay with this.

    GPs provide immunisations; monitor children's health and development; treat non-serious accidents such as cuts that need stitching, minor bangs to the head, and plastering of some fractures; can talk about your personal concerns and stresses; make referrals to other service providers and support agencies; and liaise with hospital staff to help manage your child's care after being in hospital.

    Finding a GP

    • Ask friends or family members who they recommend.
    • Ask your Maternal & Child Health Nurse.
    • Find a doctor online under 'Find a doctor'.
    • Check your government website. In Victoria: Better Health Channel.
    • Yellow Pages - ask clinics near your home if any of the doctors have a special interest in treating children.

    Choosing the right GP

    Ask yourself the following questions when you visit the GP:

    • Do I feel comfortable with this GP?
    • Do they listen to what I have to say?
    • Do I feel comfortable asking questions?
    • Does this GP understand my cultural needs?
    • Does this GP allow me to choose treatments which suit my beliefs?
    • Can I make a longer appointment time if necessary?
    • Is this GP easy for me to get to?
    • Do the clinic's opening hours suit me?
    • Does the clinic's payment plan suit me?

    How to make an appointment to see a GP

    • You need to make an appointment to see a GP, unless it is in an emergency. Even in emergencies, try to call if possible.
    • Most appointments are 10 - 15 minutes long. This is enough time for most general health problems. 

    How much does it cost to see a GP?

    Ask when you book if the practice 'bulk bills'. If you are bulk billed there is no cost to you. If the practice does not bulk bill costs can vary, depending on the practice and length of consultation. You will be able to get some of the cost back through Medicare.

    Making the most of your visit

    Before the appointment:

    •  Write down the reason/s for your visit and any questions up wish to ask. 
    • Make a list of ALL the medications you are using, including any complementary or alternative therapies.

     During your visit:

    Be prepared to discuss your concerns openly and honestly. Write down anything that is important or that you might forget. Ask questions if there is anything you don't understand.

    Getting a GP after hours

    Call your GP and listen to their telephone message. They usually have an after-hours number to contact in case of emergency. 

    • If there is no after hours service, then call Australian Locum Medical Service (ALMS) on 132 660; or National Home Doctor Service on 137 425. 
    • Many after hours GP services are bulk billed.  Ask the operator for an explanation of any fees that may be charged at the time of your call. 
    • Your own GP will receive a faxed report about the visit the next day.

    If your child needs to come into hospital 

    • Tell hospital admissions your GP's name, address and phone number.
    • Ask for a copy of the discharge summary when you are going home.
    • Ask if a copy of the discharge summary is being sent to your GP.
    • Ask the hospital doctor when your child should next see your GP.

    Key points to remember

    • A GP can give valuable advice and information on health and illness for all the family.
    • It is important to have your own GP who knows you and has access to your complete medical history in order to provide the most appropriate care. 
    • If your child needs to come into hospital, give the hospital your GP's details.
    • To make the most of your visit to the GP, think about what you want to ask before you go and write down all your questions.
    • 10 Tips to safer healthcare -

    Produced by  RCH Primary Care Liaison and Division of General Practice. First published: Jan 2006. Updated October 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.