From Monday 23rd January the practice is changing the way we manage our appointments. We want to try and better meet the medical needs of our patients in the significantly challenging situation facing the whole NHS. We also want to make better use of technology to help make things easier for patients and staff. We want to remove the 8.15 rush on the telephones which is as frustrating for staff as it is for patients.
We are using an online form for patients to fill in when they want medical help from the surgery. This will allow them to complete brief relevant information about what they are wanting. Our care navigator team can then review these to ensure people can get the right help first time. This approach will also allow us to prioritise those who need our services most and more urgently.
We are still offering the same number and type of appointments with GPs, nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacists and other staff along with signposting directly to our local services. This approach should enable us to avoid wasted appointments where people are seen and signposted on to services they could go straight to.
This approach is being used and put into practice in various places across the country and is encouraged nationally. We have looked at numerous examples to learn about what has worked elsewhere in designing how we will use this.
What is the new process?
- Patients or their representatives (or reception on their behalf) request support from the practice by completing an online set of questions explaining their concern.
- These requests are reviewed by our care navigation team who have direct clinical support and manage these appropriately. This can be by:
- Booking an appointment with a relevant professional and letting the patient know about this. Appointments may be the same day or within the next few days according to clinical need and clinician availability.
- Sending a response requesting further information or signposting to appropriate help.
- Arranging for completion of the request where it is for administrative type query.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I can’t use a computer/smartphone?
For patients unable to complete the information online themselves they can phone our reception team who can go through the questions and complete the information for them. This completed form will then be processed along with all the others submitted online.
We are very keen this process does not discriminate against anyone – part of the reason for this is to ensure we can ensure those at greatest need are seen. Our reception team will support people to complete the information needed and support with any communication difficulties to enable this. The online system we are using works in a wide range of languages and meets relevant online accessibility standards.
Can I still see a GP?
Of course, by providing a little more information up front we will be able to ensure those patients who need a GP appointment receive one and in a timely fashion.
Will I always see a GP?
For a long time now a range of clinical members have been working in primary care and this is expanding. Each with their own expertise. Our GP’s still see a very large number of patients but in some cases patient requests may be better managed by other clinicians such as clinical pharmacists, mental health specialists, social prescribers or more. We all work in a close team with support and advice provided so if something is felt to be outside someone’s expertise, they can ask for support with this.
Will the information I provide be safe and secure?
All the information provided in the online system is managed meeting robust cyber security requirements and is handled in the same was as our medical records. Only staff who have a requirement will review the information and all work to the NHS data protection and confidentiality standards.
What sort of information should I provide in the form?
Follow the questions and prompts and provide a sensible amount of detail so someone reading it can understand the problem you are presenting with. Help us in allocating appointments by providing only times you really can’t make.
Is it still first come first served with appointments?
No. This process is being done to help move away from the daily rush to get through on the phones and have appointments allocated on first come approach. As mentioned, the requests will be reviewed and allocated appointments or other actions according to clinical needs. We do have a capacity still within the practice as our hard-working team have a limit to how many patients they can safely see and manage each day. In order to support this there is a capacity to the number of requests which are accepted at different times. This capacity is staged throughout the day to avoid spread access and to allow a rapid process time in the practice. If maximum requests have already been received by the practice, then the system will tell you when more capacity is opening up to submit your request. This is the same via reception on the phones or online.
Do I still need to phone at 8.15am?
No. See previous answer but one of the main drivers for this is to remove the unpleasant and frustrating early morning rush for appointments. Which disadvantages patients who are not able to call at this time and is a lottery in regard to getting appointments.
The online system is available during our opening hours currently so we can monitor and respond to demand.
What if I have an emergency?
General practice is not an emergency service and is not set up to deliver immediate access or care. In most instances genuine emergencies need 999, 111 or direct to minor injuries units or A&E. General practice should not be used to help decide if this is necessary. For urgent cases which need seeing on the day, the system flags these up and they will be managed accordingly. If you are given an appointment in a day or two but your condition has worsened you can submit another request online and we can review this.
What do I do for nurse appointments?
At this time nurse appointments are still booked by calling our reception team. This does not need to be first thing in a morning. Directly booking nursing team appointments is appropriate for chronic disease annual reviews, smears, injections and immunisations, blood tests, wound dressings and similar.