Summary of report content
Healthwatch Havering decided to undertake research into access to GPs after hearing from local people that they were experiencing difficulties in contacting their GP and getting a face to face consultation. A group of Healthwatch volunteers contacted every GP surgery in the borough to gauge patients’ experience of contacting them. They undertook an online survey to which 31 people responded and obtained case studies.
Volunteers recorded a range of times taken to speak to someone at a GP surgery. Whilst most calls were answered in 5 minutes, one call took 1 hour and 35 minutes before it was answered. Volunteers felt that most receptionists answered the call professionally.
Only 8 receptionists were able to provide contact details for their surgery’s PPG. Volunteers asked whether the practices contacted were offering face-to-face consultations:
- In 18 cases, consultations were available after telephone triage
- In two cases, consultations were available without triage
- In four cases, it appeared that consultations were not available – seemingly under any circumstances and with no indication of when they might become available.
The survey data shows that most respondents had a telephone consultation; 23% had an online consultation and 7% went straight to the practice. Most were seen at the practice; only a few were referred to the Emergency Department (ED) at a hospital (7%) or a specialist community service (19%) and 1 person was referred to another GP practice.
Nearly three in ten were able to see a GP, while 16% saw a nurse or midwife and 6% saw another healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist or a podiatrist. Nearly half of respondents were unable, however, to see any HCP.
The majority (75%) of respondents were able to get the help they needed but 14% contacted NHS111 and were referred on by them, 4% went to the ED, another 4% went to a walk-in centre and 4% called 999 for an ambulance. The waiting time between asking for an appointment and attending for it was varied. People clearly felt frustrated about not being able to see their GP face to face.
The report contains 8 recommendations.