Summary of report content
Healthwatch North Tyneside undertook an online survey about ways to improve access to primary care during the Coronavirus pandemic and asking about their views of how future services should be structured. 235 people responded.
Most people would be happy to be triaged to receive care from an appropriate healthcare professional based on an assessment of their needs as it would save the NHS money and get them better care. Trust needs to be built in a triage approach. A significant part of this confidence comes from knowing that triage is completed by a trained healthcare professional and not focused on resource management. The approach to delivering online and phone triage and services should be the same – there should be no perceived benefit or improved access by doing something online.
Although face to face delivery of care is still perceived as the best, many respondents said phone and online ways of getting care would be appropriate depending on the issue. For urgent care needs, there was a stronger preference for face to face care in the responses compared to routine or non-urgent care.
People want to get the care they feel they need quickly and see more phone/video consultations as helping to provide a swifter response. Phone/video appointments and triaging people to the most appropriate professional is seen as being more efficient for the NHS. They are also seen as being more convenient and saving time for service users by most people who responded to the survey.
Consideration must be given to people’s access needs. Some people will need support to make best use of technology, others may always struggle to use technology. People want confidence that certain conditions/issues will be dealt with face to face and that there will be flexibility to deal with anxieties and support needs. Face to face can give a more holistic view of a situation and a better understanding of views/impact of family/carers. Risk of infection is best managed by not attending a surgery, but if needed, waiting rooms should be easier to manage if only small numbers of people are waiting.
Clear communications with service are essential so people know the different ways they can access services, what they can expect and what they need to be prepared for. Having similar approaches across all practices would make Borough wide communications better and reduce the ‘postcode lottery’ in GP services.