Residents have their say on remote GP appointments
These are extraordinary times and undoubtedly the NHS has been under huge strain. During the pandemic, GPs had to move the majority of appointments from face-to-face to remote. With doctors consulting with patients over the phone or by video call some are not happy with the new system.
Healthwatch Barnet wants to ensure that people’s voices are heard, and has carried out an in-depth survey to find out what works in the new system, and what needs improving. Throughout May, June and July, we collected insights from 350 people via 1-2-1 telephone interviews, community focus groups and a large online survey.
We found there were some positives to the remote consultation. Some said the new system is a convenient and time-efficient way to take control of their health, booking appointments at their leisure and no longer needing to travel into the GP surgery. Others also found the online booking system easy to use and that there was a quick turnaround between requesting an appointment and seeing the GP. The speediness of the prescription service was clearly something that also worked well.
Conversely, others found the online form an issue, particularly for people with long-term conditions. Waiting times for routine appointments were longer and when people were unable to access their GP, 8.15% used A&E, 80 15.9% used urgent care treatment centres and 16.30% called 111.
Many respondents said they wanted face-to-face appointments 60 but remote appointments were the only option. In fact, only 10% were 50 offered a face-to-face appointment.
People found they weren’t confident in diagnoses given over the phone without a physical assessment. One person was asked to photograph a growth on their back, which was impossible. Another said, “how do you examine an injured ankle over the phone?”
There was concern about privacy and data safety and worries about confidentiality, particularly when using a video appointment or sending a photo to the GP. For some people finding an appropriate space to take the GP’s telephone/ video call in private was also a major issue when living with family or friends.
There are also gaps in communication between GP surgeries and others such as hospitals and pharmacies. Consequently, there was a general sense of frustration that GPs are continuing to work remotely when other services have opened up.
Sadly, the report highlights that those struggling most with the new system are older people, people with learning difficulties, autism, hearing difficulties, sight impairment, those whose first language is not English, and the digitally excluded, all of whom find the new system particularly hard to use.
At Healthwatch Barnet we are calling for action. Manager, Nitish Lakhman explains, “As a result of our findings, we are recommending a hybrid model of GP service delivery is offered, to include remote and face-to-face appointments, considering the patient’s personal preferences, and not based solely on clinical need. This would address several of the negative themes identified.”
He continued, “Our findings provide a broad picture of Barnet people’s experience of remote appointments that, together with national, regional and other local information, can be used to refine the method so that it works better to meet people’s different needs.”
Following our findings, we are calling on GPs in Barnet to make changes to the system: · Include an option on the booking
form and when telephoning the surgery of the patient’s preferred method of appointment.
· Simplify the online booking form by reviewing which questions are essential.
· Include an option on the booking form to check if the patient has privacy to take the remote appointment and if not, offer an alternative.
· Reduce the time slot window for when the GP will call to allow patients more control over their other commitments.
· Review how the surgery is ensuring availability of appointments, particularly for those who telephone to book their appointment.
· Consider a ‘request a call back’ feature to reduce the length of time a patient is waiting by the telephone.
· Address privacy concerns by demonstrating to patients how the surgery manages its General Data Protection Regulation responsibilities.
· Improve communications on patient’s individual care, and any service changes and its rationale, taking into account patient’s different communications needs.
The report, which you can read in full on the Healthwatch Barnet website, has been shared with Barnet’s CCG and the Barnet GP Federation. Healthwatch Barnet will continue to support the CCG as they make plans to further improve the system so that it works better for more residents in future.
Let Healthwatch Barnet know your thoughts:
Email [email protected] healthwatchbarnet.co.uk Visit healthwatchbarnet.co.uk