Patient Access.

What is it and how does it work?

We are delighted to report that after 1 year of trialling Patient Access over 95% of our patients surveyed by the Scottish government were happy that they could see or speak with a doctor or nurse urgently. We’ve been encouraged by a lot of positive feedback we have received.

Some patients have asked us why we offer Patient Access and this information aims to help you understand why we have decided not to change back.

Patient Access Q&A

Why did you change in the first place?

Seven years ago the average patient would try and contact their GP 3 times a year.  Now that average has doubled to 6 times a year.  Demand for our GPs meant the average wait to see a GP kept on increasing.  At Newbattle, the average wait to see a GP was between 10 and 14 days, but at times it was as long as three weeks.  The problem was that all those patients who  weren’t  sure if their problem could wait asked to speak with the emergency doctor. There were too many patients who wondered if their problem was an emergency so the system was overwhelmed. This meant that the small number actual emergencies  couldn’t  get to see a doctor quickly and easily which was potentially dangerous.  Those patients who felt they could wait for appointments were waiting longer and longer to see a GP.

Ok, so has this new system helped?

Yes.  On average we now are able to speak with patients in around an hour after they have phoned. It could be as quick as 5 minutes or as long as 4 hours – but it is much better than you having to wait 3 weeks.  Patient Access allows us to prioritise those patients who need the most care.  We also now get to spend more time with patients that do need to be seen.  In other words, if your problem needs more than 10 minutes to deal with, we are better able to offer you the time we think you need.

It’s so hard to get through on the phone.

Over 70% of our patients asked feel as though it is easy to get through on the phone but we are trying to do better.  In the past year we have increased the number of telephone lines into the practice and have more staff answering the phones at peak times. We are always busiest between 8:30 and 10:30 in the mornings and most of the day on Mondays. Please consider calling at a less busy time when possible.

I work and it’s not easy for me to take calls.

We do understand that.  Please let the reception team know when the most convenient time is for someone to call and we will try hard to accommodate you.  Most employers welcome this system, as matters can often be dealt with over the phone which saves you missing several hours of work to attend an appointment.  Tell your employer about the benefits.

I prefer to be able to book an appointment ahead.

Most of our patients (over 90%) actually want to be seen the same day.  We would prefer you to phone on the day that can see a GP but if you cannot come the same day (or the doctor is unable to see you) then we will offer you a choice. We can make arrangements to see you at another time.  Sometimes, the doctor will deliberately book an appointment in advance for you so you have time to get tests or investigations done before you are seen.  This helps speed up the care you receive, with fewer unnecessary trips to the doctor.

I struggle to speak about my issues on the phone.

We appreciate that not everyone finds it easy to speak on the phone, if so please tell the doctor or nurse this straight away when they call you back– they will make every effort to accommodate you.

Can’t you employ more staff?

We have already increased the numbers of doctors and nurses at the practice.  There is a nationwide shortage of doctors.  We advertise regularly to get extra locum doctors but we can’t fill the vacancies. There simply are not enough locum doctors to cover all the practices in Scotland. Several practices are no longer able to accept any new patients because they feel that cannot provide adequate services for their patients.

Can’t you put on more appointments and work longer?

A typical day for a Newbattle GP is now 10 or 11 hours long.  The new appointment system is often harder work for GPs as we try to deliver the best possible care, to as many of our patients as we can.  One of our concerns is whether or not we can continue to offer this service which we feels is better for the vast majority of our patients.

What’s the alternative?

There is no easy answer.  If we went back to having appointments that can be booked in advance we would have to have an emergency system like A&E, where people sit and wait to be seen.  This would lead to those with genuine urgent problems waiting for long periods of time to be seen.

Is there anything that I can do to help? Yes.

If you have a problem that you’ve had for less than 10 days, and you don’t think it is urgent, please think carefully before you phone to speak with a GP or nurse.  Many of our patient’s problems can be dealt with by other services. Pharmacists are great people to ask about minor illnesses and for medication advice.  Podiatrists can help with foot problems, Opticians can deal with eye problems and Dentists can often deal with mouth, Jaw and teeth problems.

  •  Please let us know if you have had a positive experience using our services so we know what you feel works well.  If you would like to be involved with helping to shape practice services you may wish to consider joining the patient participation group (PPG).
  • Support the 2 campaigns run by the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) campaigns.  The information on their websites will explain the scale of the problem across the whole of the UK.  Please visit their websites and contact your local MSP to let them know that General Practice needs political support.
  • We are working hard to serve all of our patients with medical needs as best as we can.  Thank you for all your feedback and support so far.