Perspectives on primary care part 5: young people
As part of our “Perspectives on primary care” series, which highlights the issues different people face, we hear what a group of young people have to say about their experiences of primary care.
Access to primary care services, especially GPs and dentists, continues to be a key concern that people have raised with local Healthwatch. As part of our work to explore in more detail the different issues certain groups of people face, last year we spoke to a group of 18-22 year olds in Luton about their views.
Struggling to get a GP appointment
Like others, the young people we spoke to often struggled to get a GP appointment. The behaviour of staff, long waiting times and awkward appointment slots were all raised as barriers to accessing care.
“You can only make an appointment if you can get through to the doctor or receptionist. Our GP never picks up the phone. You have to phone at certain times and it’s always engaged. The receptionists are so rude so you don’t even want to speak to them. It just deters you from going to a GP, which is why you go and do all the other stuff, to avoid going to the GP.”
As a result, young people said that they often turn to other places for help with health issues, including NHS services such as phoning 111, visiting pharmacies or walk-in centres. The young people we spoke to also told us they ask their parents for advice, or self-diagnose using the internet.
The group were positive about their experience with local pharmacies and praised the introduction of private consulting rooms, which allowed them to discuss their health conditions confidentially.
They don’t feel listened to
In comparison to the over 65s we spoke to in Surrey, the young people we spoke to didn’t feel their GP appointments were rushed. However, they felt there was a lack of trust and their GP didn’t always believe their symptoms. They were concerned that moving to skype appointments in the future could make it harder for them to get their point across and lead to misdiagnosis.
“If they don’t trust me to give my own symptoms […] then how are they going to assess me?”
Better access to information
The young people we spoke to told us that services such as booking appointments online and text reminders were not widely publicised in Luton and better sign posting would ensure people made use of them. In our recent Primary Care report, only 30% of people in Luton received text message reminders from their surgery, yet the service is widely available across Luton.
The group also wanted better information on how to complain about poor services in confidence. They worried that by complaining openly, their future care would be at risk.
Paying for services
Many of the young people were put off by the cost of accessing dentists and after turning 18 they couldn’t afford to visit the dentist unless they were in pain. Instead they turned to over-the-counter medicine as a cheaper alternative.
Sharing personal health records
While some of the young people we spoke to liked the idea of sharing information between health services and felt that it would help to diagnose issues more effectively, others were worried about the security of their data. Most wanted their health data to be shared as long as they were asked first.
The solution: better access and communication
When we asked young people in Luton about the changes they would like to see in the future, the top priority was better communication. They wanted to be better informed about the services available and how their data was shared and stored, and to be able to access their GP at the weekend, and to see improved customer service from reception staff.
Our research has shown that eight out of ten people are keen to share their views about what could improve local services. We are encouraging more primary care professionals to talk to their patients to help identify the improvements that can help deliver an even better service in the future.