Hanging on: a report on GP phone access for Reading people during Spring 2021

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Summary of report content

This report sets out the findings of a survey conducted by Healthwatch Reading, which aimed to find out what was happening when local people phoned their doctor’s surgery during the latter stages of England’s third Covid lockdown.

The survey was answered by 339 people, mostly Reading residents. Their responses show more than half found phoning their GP surgery difficult, with the majority of negative experiences reported by people living south of the river. HW Reading received many comments of frustration about phone systems as well as some case studies about barriers to face-to-face appointments with GPs that affected people’s health. A smaller number of people fear that Covid is being used as an excuse to normalise phone-only access to doctors.

HW Reading also received positive comments about certain practices, praising polite and helpful staff and ‘amazing’ doctors and clinical care.

As the success of the Covid vaccination programme helps open up society, Healthwatch Reading is recommending that GP services start offering more face-to-face appointments and open up access routes such as online booking for routine appointments in advance. If changed ways of working are to become permanent, these need to be communicated clearly to the public to help reframe the relationship between doctors and patients in a post-lockdown world.

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General details

Report title 
Hanging on: a report on GP phone access for Reading people during Spring 2021
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Reading
Date of publication 
Thursday, 22 July, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 25 March, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Sunday, 25 April, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services
Health inequalities
Quality of appointment
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Waiting time to be seen once arrived at appointment
Waiting times and lists for treatment

Methodology and approach

Primary research method used 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
18-24 years
25-64 years
65-85 years
85 +
Asian / Asian British
Black/ African / Caribbean / Black British
Mixed / multiple ethnic groups
Other ethnic group
Does the information include public's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Yes action has been taken or promised

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.