Answers to frequently asked questions about your appointment
We’ve also provided answers to FAQs about the RCOG and O&G doctors, and to FAQs about your condition and treatment.
If my family doctor or midwife refers me to a gynaecologist or obstetrician, can I choose who I see?
Yes. Choice is a key component of health care and that includes who you see. Your general practitioner or midwife should provide information on the choices available for your condition and allow you to request who you would prefer to see. The NHS website describes your choices and how you can make them.
Can I request someone else to be present when the doctor is examining me?
Yes. A woman can be accompanied by a relative, friend or nurse when speaking or being examined by the doctor. A chaperone is usually made available; however, if there’s no chaperone present, don’t feel uncomfortable about requesting one.
What happens if I ask to be seen/treated by a female doctor only?
Any O&G department will do their best to provide a woman doctor for you if you state a preference, and it helps if you ask in advance and ensure your request is included with the referral letter from your general practitioner. If it’s not possible, and the situation isn’t urgent, it may be possible to arrange a further appointment at a time when a female doctor is available for you.
What happens about medical students or other doctors being present?
Observing senior doctors at work is an essential part of training for medical students and trainee doctors. However, it’s your decision whether or not to allow this, and whether you want the student or trainee to stay for part of the consultation and not others.
If you feel uncomfortable with somebody being present, you should tell the nurse or doctor. You don’t have to explain why you feel that way, and asking for a trainee to leave will not affect your care.
How do I see a private gynaecologist or obstetrician?
Your general practitioner will usually know the name of specialists who undertake private care and be able to refer you to one in your area. The specialist will usually prefer to receive a referral letter from your general practitioner.
If you wish to research this for yourself, you can ring the local private hospitals or search on the independent Dr Foster website, which provides information on practising consultants including whether they work privately.
If I’ve seen a doctor privately, can I switch back to non-private treatment at a later time?
Yes, you never lose your right to NHS care. Your general practitioner or specialist will be able to help you with this.
How do I get a second opinion after I’ve seen one specialist?
It’s your right to ask for a second opinion, and it’s not an uncommon request. You can either ask the specialist directly, or you can ask your general practitioner to arrange it. A second opinion could be in the same hospital or at a different unit. Sometimes women are happy with the first specialist, but just want to check things out and then return to the first.
Can I ask the doctor not to inform my family doctor or other healthcare professional about my treatment, condition or medical history?
Yes. According to the Good Medical Practice guideline, you have the right to ask your hospital doctor not to inform your general practitioner or other healthcare professional about your treatment, condition or medical history.
Will I see the letters written to my doctor after a consultation?
Yes. The NHS is promoting Copying Correspondence, which says that patients have the right to get a copy of all letters sent to their GP (unless in exceptional circumstances the doctor feels that would not be in the interest of the patient). It’s a good way of keeping you informed of the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment. This should happen automatically, but to be sure, you can mention this at the time of your consultation.
Can I keep the same consultant if I go into hospital?
You are free to request the same consultant or to change to another. However, remember that in the NHS, doctors work in teams and you might be cared for by a number of different doctors within the consultant’s team. In addition, in an emergency you would probably be cared for by the on-call team.
If I’m unhappy or uncomfortable about some aspect of the way my doctor has cared for me, what can I do?
You have a number of options.
First of all you could deal with this informally. You could discuss this with the doctor directly or you could also approach the ward nurse if you’re an inpatient.
If it’s a trainee doctor you’re not happy with, you could write to the consultant or ask to see her/him to discuss things. If you want some support to do this, you can approach the hospital’s Public Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). They meet to understand patients’ concerns and can pass information to the doctor or arrange a joint meeting. They work to negotiate good relationships, but they act in your interest.
The NHS website provides information on how to make a complaint. Complaints are willingly received and dealt with professionally. The matter will be investigated and you will receive a letter from the chief executive of the hospital. They will provide a factual account of events, an apology if appropriate, and the offer of a meeting to resolve things. A key part of the exercise is for the hospital to learn lessons, so that it should not happen again.
If you remain concerned after the investigation, you can request an independent review, which involves external assessors. Ultimately, you can make an application to the health ombudsman, but that is rare. 2 helpful websites with more detailed information are:
Are language translators available if necessary?
It’s important to let the hospital know well in advance of your appointment if you have limited English and require translation services for your consultation with the doctor. While some people prefer to rely on a family member or friend, you can ask the trust for a professional translator or interpreter. Sometimes a spoken-language, telephone-based translation service may be provided. If you use British Sign Language as your first and preferred language, you should ask the trust for a qualified interpreter, who should be supplied, given adequate notice.
The College is unable to advise individuals on specific medical conditions or treatments. However, please email us at KO'Rourke@rcog.org.uk if there’s anything you don’t understand or anything more you need to know, as we can usually direct you to alternative sources of information.