Summary of report content
Healthwatch Harrow decided to research access to GPs and dentists as they were hearing from the public that this was a problem. They undertook a survey in November and December 2020 to which 100 people responded
Just 16% of respondents have found it ‘easy’ to obtain an appointment with a GP, with 43% finding it 'difficult'. Of those experiencing problems, nearly 3 in 5 cite telephone, and over 2 in 5 state online related issues. Around half (48%) could not obtain an appointment at their own practice.
While 70% of respondents are comfortable with telephone booking, 54% are comfortable with telephone consultations. While 51% of respondents are comfortable with online booking, just 34% are comfortable with online (video) consultations. 64% of respondents are satisfied with services overall.
People with Mental Health conditions, Carers, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) respondents and those of working age are disproportionally impacted, in terms of access, confidence across platforms and overall satisfaction.
A third of respondents have found it 'easy' to obtain a dentists appointment, with a larger number (44%) finding it 'difficult'. Over a quarter have experienced difficulty in obtaining an emergency appointment.
Over three in five respondents are registered with an NHS dentist, however some have recently been de-registered or advised to go private. 86% of respondents are satisfied with services overall. Those of working age are least satisfied, or able to access services.
Local dentists reported that Harrow do not have enough Units of Dental Activity, so run out of their allocation for NHS treatment which means they have to offer treatment at private fees.
When compared with White/White British respondents, those from minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to find it difficult to obtain a GP appointment or be registered with an NHS dentist. They were also less likely to be satisfied with the outcome of GP or dental services, feel confident to use telephone or online services for GP access, and struggle to access a dentist with pain or problems.
Healthwatch Harrow conclude that:
- telephone systems and online booking systems are not efficient to meet the demands or needs of patients needing to contact the surgery.
- Commissioning of NHS Dental Care is not meeting current demand.
- The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are disproportionately affected in accessing services.
- Accessibility is particularly an issue for those patients with language, mental health and learning disabilities.
The report includes four recommendations designed to address the issues raised in the report.