If you have a regular GP, you’ll likely want to stay with them as long as possible – but that may not be on the cards.

Especially as you get older, you might find that your current GP can’t meet your needs, or they retire, or their practice closes down or radically changes its offering (or you simply never had a regular GP in the first place, which isn’t uncommon).

Writing in The Conversation, GPs David King and Rhys Cameron, both senior lecturers at the University of Queensland, said it’s important to have a good GP who you can trust to coordinate your specific healthcare needs.

As practising GPs ourselves, we are often asked: ‘Do you know a good GP?’

“This can be a somewhat difficult question to answer, as each person’s perception of ‘good’ is highly subjective, dependent on many factors.

“Studies of peoples’ preferences have varied results. One study found the listening ability of the GP to be important. Other studies found patients put more value in clinical competency, a trusting relationship or continuity of care,” they wrote.

Dr King and Dr Cameron offer this list of six things to consider when looking for a GP who suits you:

  • What are your health needs? Younger and fitter people won’t need to visit their GP as often, so if you find one who’s convenient and has an easy booking progress, that will likely work for you. By contrast, if you have a disability and/or chronic complex medical conditions, you should find someone more consistent and thorough.
  • How much do they charge? Unfortunately, GPs who bulk bill are getting rarer and rarer, so chances are you’ll need to either pay out of pocket for your consult or deal with a bulk-billing doctor who is seeing more patients – and thus has less time for you. As a rule of thumb, the Australian Medical Association recommends $86 for a 15-minute consult, with $39 coming back to you as a Medicare rebate.
  • How big and accessible is their practice? How far away are they, and will they be open at the times that are best for you? You should also consider the size of the practice, as a larger one will be more likely to fit you in to see a doctor when you need one (even if they’re not your regular doctor), and their accessibility for people with disabilities – as well as any telehealth options they may offer.
  • What are their reviews like? Drs King and Cameron warn that it can be “tricky” to judge a GP based on online reviews alone, as fewer than 10% of people post them and their reasons for a negative review may not be especially sound. That said, if a GP does have a lot of good reviews in places like Facebook community groups, that’s usually a positive sign.
  • How new are they to the profession? You might balk at seeing a young doctor without a lot of experience, but consider that they’ll probably have a lot of appointments available – as well as the very latest knowledge from medical school.
  • Do they specialise? It can be useful to have a GP with a sub-specialty such as gynaecology, skin cancer care, mental health, or musculoskeletal health, as they’ll likely have a shorter wait time and charge less than a dedicated specialist. Check the practice website for their post-graduate training.

Drs King and Cameron also recommend checking the practice’s accreditation status, the GP’s qualifications, and the standard length for a consult – but ultimately, they say, the real test is how you get on with them in person.

You don’t know that your GP is great until you’ve journeyed with them through some potentially challenging times of your life.

“We encourage you to use the above tips to find a suitable GP, then give them some time to get to know you and grow a therapeutic relationship,” they said.

“With continuity of care, trust will grow, as will knowledge about you and your values. This will ultimately improve your overall health care experience.”