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Virtual appointments

It might feel unusual having to speak to your doctor over the phone or on a video call. If you are feeling nervous about the change to how your appointment is done, it could affect you getting the best out of the appointment. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen and hope the information on this page helps you feel confident about virtual appointments.

If you want to anything through or have questions, remember that our support services are here for you. You might like to call us on 0808 802 8000 or join our Forum to get support from others.

Get support >

What is a virtual appointment?

A virtual appointment is a way of speaking with your doctor that isn’t face-to-face. It could be over the phone or on a video call. If you have a preference, tell them so they can try to make that happen for you. 

How does a virtual appointment work?

If you need a GP appointment, call or email your GP surgery as you usually would. The receptionist should then book you in for an appointment by phone or video call.

If you are waiting for a hospital follow up appointment, your doctor should let you know if your appointment will be virtual. This may be done by letter. They will book in time to have a phone call or video call with you. 

If you need an interpreter or have a preference about the type of call you have, it is important to tell your doctor. 

Phone calls

If you are having a phone call with your doctor, you will need a landline or mobile phone. Your doctor will call you at an agreed time. 

Video calls

If you are video calling with your doctor, you will need to have a laptop or mobile with built in speakers, microphone and web-camera. 

You do not need to make an online account to have a video call  your doctor will send you a link. The video call is included in your usual internet usage, so you should not have to pay an extra cost. 

If you are using your mobile phone for the video call, connect to your home WiFi so that you do not have to use your mobile data.

Preparing for a virtual appointment

Try to think of a virtual appointment in the same way as one that’s face-to-face the only difference is you will be on the phone or computer! The outcome should be the same, because your health is still the priority.

You could try our tips for getting ready for your appointment:

  • Make sure you are somewhere with a good phone signal or internet connection.
  • Put your phone on loud so you don’t miss the call.
  • Take yourself somewhere quiet and private, or somewhere you feel comfortable. 
  • Get a pen and paper to down any questions you want to ask. You can also use it to write notes during the appointment.
  • You might like to have someone with you on the call, either in the same room or dialled in. They can help remember what was said and give you support. If you would like someone else to dial in, check with your doctor that this is possible. 

What happens if I need a face-to-face appointment?

A virtual appointment means your doctor can assess you in a way that lets you stay at home. If that assessment shows you need a face-to-face appointment – perhaps for an examination – your doctor will tell you and book one in.

If you need to go to your GP surgery or hospital, remember that the doctors and nurses are doing everything they can to keep you protected from coronavirus. 

If you have hearing or sight loss

If you have hearing or sight loss, we know you may be worried about being able to access virtual appointments. 

Hearing loss

Your GP surgery might offer services to support you, so you may want to contact them or check the surgery website to find out. You may have a preference of a phone or video call. If one is more accessible for you, tell your GP when booking an appointment. 

You can also use NHS 111 online or use the 24/7 British Sign Language Interpreter 111 service. The service is free and open all the time – 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Find out more about NHS 111 >

Action on Hearing Loss has information about accessing services during the coronavirus pandemic, including an Information Line that can give guidance specific to your area.

Visit the Action on Hearing Loss website >

Sight loss

Your GP surgery might offer services to support you, so you may want to call or check the surgery website to find out. You may have a preference of a phone or video call. If one is more accessible for you, tell your GP when booking an appointment. 

You might already have technology that makes accessing information and support online, like a virtual appointment, more accessible. If you don’t or what you currently have isn’t working, RNIB has a guide to the latest technology to support you.

Visit the RNIB website >

A group of sight loss charities have put together some information about coronavirus that may be helpful.

Visit the Sight Advice website >

How we can help

If you have any health concerns, it is important to speak with your GP. They are still open and want to hear from you, even if the appointment might be different to usual. 

Remember, we are also here to support you and our services are open if you want to talk through anything or simply have someone listen to your concerns on 0808 802 8000

Check our Helpline opening hours >

We also have a welcoming community in our online Forum, where you can get and give support. 

Join our Forum >

If you have general questions about a cervix-related health condition, our Ask the Expert service may be able to help. Submit your question confidentially to our panel of experts and get a tailored reply. 

Use our Ask the Expert service >

Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it. 


We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]

Read more about how we research and write our information >

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Date last updated: 
17 Aug 2020
Date due for review: 
30 Nov 2021
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