Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 09:17 UK

Doctor's diary: Expert patients

By Dr Nicola Jones

"My patient now knows more than I do about her condition"

This week BBC diary doctor, Nicola Jones, reports on how to become an expert on your own health.

I have a patient who had loads of symptoms spanning several years before we eventually got to the bottom of it and a diagnosis was made. She turned out to have an uncommon condition which required a lot of medication.

Her life became one long round of hospital visits. She became depressed and was coming to see me more and more. I found it a struggle to offer anything other than support.

Then I referred her to the Expert Patient Programme and it transformed her. The Expert Patient Programme is a course for people with a long term condition. It helps people manage their condition and helps them to get some control back into their lives.

My patient was transformed. She became very educated about her condition - an absolute guru in fact, and knows far more than I do about it. Her life has really improved by becoming an expert in her own care.

For anyone planning to see their GP, there are a few simple things you can do to make the most of your appointment:

  • Make sure you know how your practice appointment system works so you can get an appointment when you want it, and with the GP you prefer.
  • If you know you have more than one problem or it's complicated, ask your practice if you can book a double appointment.
  • Before your appointment, think about what you want to say and make a few brief notes if you need to, even if you don't use them in the consultation; it can help to think things through in this way.
  • Think about any questions you have and also what your GP might ask you.
  • Sometimes people forget afterwards what the GP said and if that sounds like you, ask your GP for some written information about the advice you've been given. This will help your GP to help you and enable you to get the most out of your consultation.

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