The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we use our GP practices, with the move to online bookings and video and phone consultations. This has allowed GP practices to keep practices running in the safest way, and remote consultations have been welcomed by many people as being safe and efficient. However, walk-in access to GP practice receptions has not been possible and telephone lines have become busier, leading to many struggling to access appointments.
Feedback we have received at Healthwatch Rutland is highlighting that some patients are struggling to access care from the Oakham Medical Practice.
What people have told us
- There are long waits on the telephone to book an appointment.
- When the call is answered, people have been told when they need an urgent appointment, that there are no appointments that day, and to try to book online. When online booking is accessed, there are often no appointments available to book either short-term or longer term.
- When no appointments are available to book by telephone or online, the patient may be advised to call back at 8.30am the next day and so the long wait/no appointment process repeats.
- There is some anxiety that initial triage of calls is conducted by non-clinical staff who may lack appropriate training to make safe judgements about whether a patient needs an urgent consultation and with whom.
- Patients are anxious that regular health checks and medication reviews have not been happening, and they do not know how and when to request them.
- Patients would be happy to use email to communicate with the practice to ask questions and receive answers and, so, free up telephone lines. But emails are not being responded to in an acceptable timeframe.
Healthwatch Rutland has met with partners and staff at the practice, the Patient Participation Group and the clinical director of the Primary Care Network to discuss the issues and understand how they can be addressed.
The OMP team highlighted the very high demand for appointments that is being experienced by the practice and the measures that are being taken to respond. Staff are working hard to provide patients with high quality care and in response to patients’ feedback, partners at the practice are taking steps to;
- Better understand the increased demand on the practice and how this can be managed and balanced.
- Improve supply of GP appointments by completing the hiring process for new GPs.
In addition, we have recommended that the practice should;
- Improve regular and ongoing communication with patients to keep you abreast of
a) developments and changes in operation of the Practice,
b) how additional clinical resources in the Primary Care Network of GP practices in Rutland will facilitate improved access to care across all the Rutland practices.
- Provide clear information on the Practice website about how you can help yourself by accessing a broad range of clinicians through direct, self-referral.
- Provide clear guidance on how online access with the Practice can be used and what response time to expect.