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Addressing GP access issues for people in Hertfordshire


Patients struggling to access GP services helped by Healthwatch Hertfordshire

Frustrated lady on the phone

We spoke to Healthwatch Hertfordshire to find out more.

Why did you investigate this issue?

People living in the Stort Valley and Villages area contacted us expressing a real concern and dissatisfaction with some of the GP services provided in the area. Through meetings with the GP contract holders, NHS England Area Team, and other key contacts, we quickly became aware of the deep-rooted issues affecting people’s access to GP services. Through surveys, face-to-face meetings, telephone calls and focus groups we engaged with over 800 local people, as well as meeting with commissioners and providers. We focused on the single locality area of Stort Valley and Villages so that we could work closely with each service and ensure our work was thorough and locally relevant.

What did people tell you?

The main concerns were about difficulties booking an appointment. Although most preferred to book by phone, many ended up walking in to the surgery to make their appointment because of difficulties they had getting through. This meant that those unable to get to the surgery would be disadvantaged.

What happened as a result?

We put together a set of recommendations for GP practices to consider and discuss with us. Many have already begun to implement simple but important fixes and are working to improve their communication with their service users. Patients from across the county have been taking our report into their practice and challenging them to take up the recommendations.

Both our Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have also endorsed our findings, and Hertfordshire Valley CCG are now using the feedback we gathered from local people to inform criteria for success for GP services. The NHS England Area Team are also using it to inform their discussions with every GP Practice in their area.

What feedback did you get?

The feedback we have received so far has been positive and we have even had requests for copies of our report and more information from Practice Managers outside of the county.

Many people have told us they feel reassured by an independent organisation speaking up for them, and that they are grateful that their concerns are being taken seriously. They are also happy we are working with practices and other partner organisations to try to improve their services. We also won an award at the Healthwatch Network Awards 2015 for ‘Making a difference to Healthcare’ for this work which we’re very proud of.

You can find out more by reading Healthwatch Hertfordshire’s GP Access Report.

If you’re having problems accessing GP services in your area, contact your local Healthwatch to let them know.