Research conducted by Healthwatch Brighton and Hove highlights difficulties patients have making appointments, getting referrals and poor communication when referral delays are experienced.
The research, however, also showed high levels of satisfaction regarding the quality of care offered with patients reporting that staff gave them enough time to express their concerns and listened to them properly.
The research involved a city-wide patient survey and visits to 12 GP practices, obtaining feedback from 534 patients in total.
Key findings were as follows:
♦ 25% of patients reported usually waiting longer than a week for an appointment at the GP surgery, significantly higher than the national average of 17% (NHS England National GP Patient Survey, 2015).
♦ Between a quarter and a third of patients reported finding systems for booking an appointment difficult to use.
♦ A third of patients who had received a referral for an assessment or specialist treatment reported long delays and 59% of these patients reported poor communication about these delays.
♦ A large majority of patients felt that doctors (83%), nurses (88%) and reception staff (87%) at their practice were good at giving them enough time to express their concerns and listened to them properly.
♦ Patient awareness of preventative health services available at surgeries was low. For example, only 41% of patients said they were aware of NHS health checks.
On the basis of the findings, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove is urging local commissioners and GP practices to make the following changes:
- Practices should review appointment booking systems and make them as user-friendly as possible.
- Practices should work to reduce the number of non-emergency appointments that involve a week or more wait for the patient.
- Online booking should be promoted and made easier, especially for younger people.
Preventative health checks
- Practices should be proactive in publicising preventative health checks. Information should be visible in waiting rooms and personal invitations sent to patients. Innovative ways of improving awareness and encouraging take-up should be considered including using social media, text messaging and email messages.
- Practices should communicate to patients whenever unanticipated delays are experienced in referrals to specialist treatment. This communication should be made by letter or phone.
David Liley, chief executive of Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, said: “This latest research shows that, while much of the patient experience is positive, there are areas where commissioners and GP practices need to take on board the concerns expressed to further improve primary care services in the city.
“Set against a backdrop of GP surgeries closing and threats of patients being removed from lists, it is vital that those delivering GP services respond positively to these findings to build patient confidence.”
To read the full report, click here: