Current Access Update
Priory Surgery’s mission is to provide effective, compassionate care for our community. We will always do everything we can to make sure you get the right care when you need it and will offer appointments as soon as possible, based on a patient’s clinical needs. However, we are very aware that accessing GP services here at Priory, across the locality and nationwide can be difficult. We thought it might be useful to take some time to explain why, and to outline the measures we have and are putting in place in response to this.
Demand for GP services is currently very high. The ONS recently reported an increase of 500,000 in requests for a GP appointment compared to a similar period in 2022, and although our doctors are in fact providing 50% more GP appointments then we were 4 years ago, pre-pandemic, we are aware that there is still unmet demand.
Delays in Secondary Care:
The waiting times for treatment in secondary care feed into this. The statistics for June 2023 showed that:
- around 7.57 million people were waiting for treatment, a slight increase on the previous month;
- nearly 3.03 million of these patients had been waiting over 18 weeks;
- around 383,000 of these patients had been waiting over a year for treatment –around 371 times as many as in May 2019, before the pandemic began.
- The median waiting time for treatment was 14.3 weeks – almost double the pre-COVID median wait of 7.2 weeks in April 2019.
Whilst patients are either waiting for referral or waiting for follow-up, their need for care does not disappear and GPs inevitably and understandably become the holding area whilst patients wait for hospital treatment. Calls from patients requesting that we expedite their referral add even more to existing workload challenges.
On top of this, there is a national shortage of GPs and in addition, a shortage of experienced clinicians in other areas; this includes Nurses, Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Pharmacists and Physiotherapists. (the link below will take you to a snapshot of the current workforce challenges according to the British Medical Association. Pressures in general practice data analysis (bma.org.uk).) This means that it can, therefore, take time to find additional or replacement clinical staff.
What is Priory doing to address this?
Expanding our workforce:
Despite the current workforce challenges, we are doing our best to expand our capacity wherever we can. We are proud to be a teaching practice and feel that it is a testament to our values and organisational culture that despite the amount of choice currently available to them, our recent trainees have been keen to stay with us, and our patients, on qualifying. In 2022 we were able to recruit an additional 4-session per week doctor via this route, and we are looking forward to welcoming another 5-session doctor in October 2023.
Over the past few months, we have also increased our nursing team capacity by 18 hours per week and over the past year we have taken on a part-time Mental Health Practitioner and a Mental Health and Wellbeing Coach. We are also very pleased to announce that after a six-month recruitment process, we have now recruited to fill our vacant Physiotherapy post. This will provide us with approximately 25 additional slots per week for patients with musculoskeletal conditions.
Utilising technology to improve patient experience and efficiency:
We have commissioned a new phone system. Whilst this will not in and of itself create additional appointments, we are aware from patient feedback that our previous system was adding an extra level of stress to the experience of booking an appointment. Our new system provides a call-back facility and a messaging system that allows us to update our recorded messages in a much more timely fashion. We are already receiving positive feedback and are hopeful that our new system will lead to a much-improved patient journey.
We have also recently rolled out new patient navigation software. This will assist our patient navigation team to appropriately redirect patients, as stipulated by NHS England, to more suitable services such as community pharmacy, thereby freeing up more practice appointments.
Improving our processes:
We pride ourselves on being open and in response to patient feedback and protocols brought in by the government and NHS England, are changing the way we release our appointments. From Monday 17th July all urgent & routine appointments will be released at 8am for the whole day meaning that patients will no longer have to call back for an afternoon slot.
Engaging with our Patient Participation Group:
We have an active PPG and discuss issues relating to access and many other pertinent topics in our quarterly meetings. Topics we have recently discussed include how best to promote the valuable skill sets our non-GP clinicians possess and how best to tackle non-attendance at appointments. If you are interested in taking part in these useful and enjoyable sessions, please click here for further information.
Looking after our staff and protecting their morale:
We are very mindful of the need to retain our staff in such challenging circumstances. Recently we reviewed the workload of our General Practitioners. Our doctors are currently delivering above the BMA recommended number of appointments each day, but to ensure both the clinical safety of our patients and the mental and physical well-being of our GPs, we do monitor our capacity and will refer to other services once safe limits are reached.
We also seek to ensure the well-being of the whole team by requesting that our patients treat all staff members with kindness and respect. It is of course vital that we know about and act on any instances where our staff’s conduct falls below the standard expected of them. Equally though we would ask that our patients also adhere to the agreement laid out in our Patient Charter, and refrain from taking out any frustration they may be feeling in relation to some of the current challenges, on the staff member in front of them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. We are here for you, and all of us care very much about the service we provide to you. We are always open to feedback but there are some issues that are bigger than us and may take some time to resolve.