Thursday, July 25, 2013

Appointment availability

Over the last few years GP practices up and down the country have experienced exceptional growth in demand for services.   There has also been plenty of news in the media lately about the UK’s aging population and the knock on effects on health provision, the NHS’s ability to pay for and provide new, life changing treatments and medicines and the Government target for the NHS to make £20 Billion of efficiency savings by 2015.  Every GP practice is challenged to offer more with limited and sometimes diminishing resources.

Over the last five years we have seen our registered list of patients increase by 44%, yet the number of face to face consultations increased by 91% and the number of telephone consultations by a staggering 409%  Nationally general practice is increasingly being provided by a predominantly female workforce and many GPs both male and female are actively choosing either to work part time in practices or to provide additional services with the extended NHS, often bringing externally acquired skills and competencies to their GP work.

I am very aware that some patients have found it difficult to get appointments, when they want them with the doctor of their choice.  I apologise for this and acknowledge that at times our system has been unable to cope with the demands put on it and offer the flexibility expected. 

We have invested heavily in an electronic call management system allowing both the monitoring of call volumes, the time patients are kept waiting and the facilitating of the diversion of calls to be handled additionally by receptionists away from the front line during busy periods.  We are confident this system has benefited patients and staff management considerably. 

The whole practice team has recently been involved in looking at ways to improve our access, based on need with a focus on continuity of care. We are planning to roll out a revised appointment system in early October and more details of this will follow shortly.  Features of our new system will include patients being asked to book with their own doctor, rather than any doctor and will rely on our receptionists signposting patients appropriately.    

If you are registered with a particular doctor but for whatever reason see someone else, please ask to be transferred to their list.  Of course if you are registered with a male doctor but prefer to see a female doctor for certain conditions/symptoms or vice versa we can arrange that for you and you do not need to change doctor permanently.  

If your condition is urgent and you need same day medical assistance, please contact the on call team via reception on 01404 814447. Our receptionists may ask you for more information about your condition so that you can be directed to the most appropriate appointment.  Usually they will ask a member of the on call team to phone you to agree an appropriate plan with you.  This may be self-treatment or over the counter medicine, a prescription, or an appointment with either a Nurse Practitioner or a Doctor.  Routine advice can also be obtained from your local pharmacist, NHS Direct 0845 1234 or online at

We run an appointment system, therefore in the first instance please telephone us.  Our receptionists are excellent at signposting if you are able to tell them what the problem is. 

Please avoid turning up at reception without an appointment, expecting to be seen.  This puts enormous pressure on the whole system and unless it is an emergency, usually means an exceptionally long wait, being sent away to wait for a phone call or diversion to another service such as minor injuries unit or the out of hours doctor service.  If you telephone when we are closed your phone call will automatically divert to the out of hours service who will be able to help you. 

Please do your upmost to have some degree of flexibility when booking routine appointments. We can usually offer appointments within a couple of days but you may have to change any pre-existing plans you have for that day.  

Many minor ailments are self-limiting (which means they get better over time) and can be treated or symptoms alleviated with over the counter medicines eg pain killers for aches and pains, creams and medicines for insect bites, cold sores and other minor skin irritations, cough and cold, indigestion and heart burn remedies.    The local pharmacists can give you more information and advice. If you have a minor illness and you are no better within a couple of days or your symptoms are worsening please DO get in touch.

If you have a condition or symptoms that may suggest you have something contagious (that other people may catch) please stay at home and telephone us for advice.

Each month we highlight to ourselves the many hours of valuable appointment time that is lost because patients did not attend their appointment.  Please ring to cancel if you no longer need your appointment.   

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