Reply to patients regarding appointment access problems

Apologies for the generic reply to the concern you raised regarding appointments. We have put together this general response as we are (understandably) getting a lot of feedback from patients about how frustrated they are with the system currently.

Since March 2021, we have seen a surge in demand for access to GPs. We think this is a combination of a lot of things: people who have put their problem off due to Covid, people who are on the wait list for Secondary Care (Hospital) appointments needing help while waiting, lots more mental health problems than usual, an increasing list size due to the local new builds, and other things.

Our core funding is £97.28 per patient per year, and although this was a £3.82 per patient increase since last year, this doesn’t come close to matching the 20% increase in demand we have seen since March.

We have taken on extra GPs and staff to help keep pace with the increased list size, but we cannot subsidise the staffing the increase in demand needs. Even if we could, there are very few GPs out there looking for a job!

The increase in demand is something that has been seen nationally, so we know it’s not something we are doing wrong!

There is some good information here regarding access to a GP https://youtu.be/G0MIGTeOmUU.

We have always seen patients face to face, and although we encouraged remote consultation (phone, video or eConsult) at the start of the pandemic, we now ask the patient whether they would prefer a telephone or face to face consultation.

We are not currently pre booking appointments as it has been very disruptive to the service to have to cancel whole clinics when GPs are isolating or unwell. We are constantly evaluating this though with sickness levels, and will return to this as soon as we sensibly can. Please note though – this will not give more capacity, it will just allow people to plan their appointments better.

We know the queues on the phones first thing in the morning are long. We changed our phone system early in 2021, and the new system gives us much better call handling capabilities. We asked our patients if they would prefer to be in a long queue, or get the engaged tone, and almost unanimously, they told us they preferred to be in a queue as they could just leave it ringing in the background. We have also put in other options for patients when they call, including the flu and Covid vaccination hotline at specific times of the day to reduce the congestion. If you need to call us, and it’s not to ask for a GP / ANP appointment, you are better calling after 10.30 as the queue will be much less.

We do still offer a safe service, and if you feel seriously unwell, even when we are full, you can let the reception team know, and we will get a GP to assess your request and offer an appropriate course of action.

We are very frustrated with the current situation – we have always prided ourselves on offering a good service. We know how difficult it is for patients to access appointments and we are sorry that Primary Care is like this currently. We are really happy to consider any sensible suggestions you make, and we ask our Patient Participation Group regularly for feedback and suggestions. You might like to contact your MP to ask what the plans are to support General Practice in coping with the increased demand – you can find your local MP’s contact details here https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP.

A few tips in case you’ve not tried them:

  • Can you self help? There is some good information online https://hedgeendmedicalcentre.webgp.com/treatmentCategory/showAll, choose the problem, and select “self help” on the next page. Alternative, use the NHS App, or https://www.nhs.uk/
  • Can your local pharmacist help? Pharmacists are experts in medicines who can help you with minor health concerns. They can offer clinic advice and over the counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains. They will let you know if you need to see someone else. More information here https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/prescriptions-and-pharmacies/pharmacies/how-your-pharmacy-can-help/
  • If you haven’t already, use eConsult to check if your problem is urgent or not. eConsult will not let you continue if it’s possibly an emergency. If it does continue to the end, and our clinician assesses the problem as urgent, we will give you a same day appointment. If it’s assessed as routine, you can be reassured that it is safe to wait.
  • Can you consult with one of our Clinical pharmacists, our Musculo Skeletal (MSK) professional or our Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP)? These appointments are often available in advance, so easier to access than a GP appointment. Please note, some will be at the Hub at Botley – they will still have access to your medical records.

We have been publishing regular updates on our website and Facebook pages, but we realise not everyone has access to these. If you wish to follow our Facebook page, it can be found at www.facebook.com/HEMC24, and our website is www.hedgeendmedicalcentre.co.uk – look at the News pages for updates.

We hope that has answered your concern, and hope we can return to our usual good service soon.

Updated September 2021

Published: Jul 12, 2021