Recorded messages and automated telephony in GP surgeries

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Greenwich wanted to review the information on recorded messages and automated telephony systems at GP surgeries, as a result of experiences reported to them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their audit found the quality of information provided to service users in recorded messages and telephony menu options varied between GP surgeries with little standardisation. They found examples of good practice, with welcoming and informative recorded messages and good descriptions of services offered and how to access them. Others were long and included information that was less useful for patients.

Only half of surgeries provided callers with information about the number of people ahead of them in the queue.  Just over half told callers about using online triage systems and less than a third provided telephone menu options to book appointments.

Only one in six surgeries provided information for callers who were digitally excluded or needed interpretation services.

Just over a third offered a menu option for test results, with nearly half giving a specific time to call back.

While many recorded messages told callers that repeat prescriptions could not be requested over the telephone, very few informed callers how to request repeat prescriptions.

The report contains 6 recommendations.

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General details

Report title 
Recorded messages and automated telephony in GP surgeries
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Greenwich
Date of publication 
Tuesday, 17 May, 2022
Date evidence capture began 
Tuesday, 1 March, 2022
Date evidence capture finished 
Thursday, 31 March, 2022
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services
Information providing
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Waiting time to be seen once arrived at appointment

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
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 
Not applicable
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include staff's views? 
Not applicable
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.