A lot of people are only vaguely aware of the existence of the after hours doctor industry, and consider it to be simply an alternative to going to the emergency room if you have health problems at night. But this characterisation leaves people underutilising the service, which can be helpful in any number of ways.
They can be useful for any number of situations where you need to see a GP but can’t make it in regular business hours. They can also be a good alternative to visiting the emergency room, which should really be saved for serious situations.
They do everything your GP does
Need a prescription, general check-up or a weird spot looked at? Your after hours doctor can do it for you. Virtually anything that you normally need to make an appointment during the day for can be done outside regular hours, so if you work a lot or just don’t have the time (for whatever reason) to spend an hour or so sitting in a waiting room in the middle of the day you can still receive medical care.
It can be far more convenient to see an after hours doctor for things like getting a prescription refilled that only takes a few minutes. This can be done quickly after work, and won’t take anywhere near the amount of time that going to a clinic will. You also won’t eat into your annual leave, with non-emergency medical appointments not classified as sick leave.
If you need a longer appointment it can also be more convenient to see an after hours doctor. They won’t be trying to rush through your appointment to get to their next patient, so you will get the attention that your problem needs.
This can be helpful if you need to have a long conversation, for example about trying to lose weight or get pregnant, as they will be able to give you more advice and talk about your specific situation. You will also get a better idea of your options, and they will get to know you better – which is always useful for a medical professional.
As long as you book in advance you will also be able to undergo procedures like medical examinations and vaccinations. Contrary to what you might assume the equipment for these doesn’t live exclusively in your GP’s office, and in fact your after hours doctor can perform these procedures wherever they operate – even in your own home if they do house calls.
They are discrete
Many people might be embarrassed to go to a clinic over sexual health problems or other health issues that carry stigmas, such as mental health and obesity. In this case an after hours doctor can be the perfect solution because they are likely to be more discrete than a GP – if only because fewer people are around to see you at night than during the day with a waiting room full of people.
If you don’t want people to see you walking into a sexual health clinic then you can ask an after hours doctor to help you with tests and medication in the evening or on a weekend. You can’t just skip getting tested because you are embarrassed – you need to know, for your own health as well as that of anyone else who might be infected.
You might also feel like you are wasting your GP’s time with questions about things like ways to lose weight, as there is a big societal perception that people should be able to sort that out for themselves. This is incorrect, and talking to a GP is an excellent way to start an achievable weight loss journey. If you are embarrassed, however, seeing an after hours doctor is the perfect solution.
Mental health issues carry a similar stigma; however your recovery has to start somewhere. Seeing a good after hours doctor is a good start, especially since you won’t have to struggle with the burden of waiting for an appointment – and in many cases you will be able to see your chosen medical professional from your own home.
If you do have a last minute medical problem at night or over the weekend, such as a bad stomach bug, you are better off seeing an after hours doctor rather than waiting for your GP to open. You will be able to get any medicine you need faster, and on the off chance that you are experiencing the early symptoms of a serious disease you will be able to go to hospital earlier, hopefully helping you recover faster.
As you can see, there are a number of benefits to seeing an after hours doctor, beyond last minute medical problems (although they are good for that too). The discretion from these appointments means that some people may find it easier to get help for stigmatised issues, and the timing is more likely to be convenient too.