Let's talk - accessing GP practice appointments

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Summary of report content

In June 2021 Healthwatch Rutland, in partnership with Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire, embarked on a project to investigate the public’s experiences and opinions about new ways of working, or accessing health and social care that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. This report is about access to GPs and contains the views of 26 people.

Many patients are experiencing difficulties and long delays in contacting their GP practices by telephone. As well as increasing the risk of an adverse impact on patient’s health and wellbeing it also lowers public satisfaction, and people’s confidence in General Practice is undermined. Some patients are moving to other practices, which could potentially cause pressures on smaller surgeries.

Many people are unaware that staff answering surgery telephones are not receptionists but trained ‘care navigators’ who are attempting to signpost people to the most appropriate professional rather than carrying out a clinical triage. The public mistrust call handlers’ ability to correctly signpost to the most appropriate professional and interactions are not always successful.

The use of a multidisciplinary team is accepted by some but rejected by others who still want to see a doctor and have continuity of care.

The inability to secure an appointment can have serious emotional, mental, physical and financial impact on patients. Those who have the means are opting for private care, but this is not an affordable option for many who face long waiting times.

There are concerns for those who cannot, or do not want to use remote consultations, a suspicion that remote diagnoses might be less accurate, and that the practices might not respond to digital communication. Some people prefer face-to-face consultations and continuity of care with a named doctor. Others appreciate that digital technology facilitates a prompt reply, easy access to records and test results and the avoidance of travel to see a professional.

Electronic prescribing was welcomed by some, but others found the system too complicated and too difficult to manage – especially if ordering multiple repeat prescriptions.

The report contains 6 recommendations.

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General details

Report title 
Let's talk - accessing GP practice appointments
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Rutland
Date of publication 
Monday, 29 November, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Tuesday, 1 June, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Tuesday, 31 August, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Digitalisation of services
Health inequalities
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Staff attitudes
Waiting times and lists for treatment

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Focus group
Structured interview
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

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 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff'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? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

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.