Action taken after some patients face 'excessive waits' to book GP appointments

There is "considerable variation" in access to GP services in the county with some patients facing "excessive waits" to book appointments or discuss issues, a new report says.

It comes as the demand for doctors' appointments has increased to levels above those seen pre-pandemic, with the number of telephone consultations tripling since 2019.

However, a report prepared by Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group for Telford and Wrekin Council's health and wellbeing board says that almost six in 10 patients are still being seen face-to-face.

Despite a national GP patient survey showing that primary care in the county has "maintained high levels of patient satisfaction", the report adds that it is recognised some patients are experiencing difficulties, especially getting through to GP practices on the phone.

And the CCG has outlined ways it is working with GP surgeries to make improvements.

Actions have included additional technical support to improve phone systems, mystery shopper approaches to test out processes and "triangulating data" from various sources to offer targeted support to practices where patients are experiencing greater access difficulties.

Meanwhile, GP practices are being supported to adopt schemes such as offering patients same day minor illness consultations with appropriately trained community pharmacists.

"Additionally the role of receptionist/call handlers is expanding and changing and many staff in these roles now perform the function of a care navigator," the report states.

"This means they are involved in redirecting/making appointments with wider team members.

"Whilst this is a positive thing for individual patient experience, further work is underway to understand if/how this might be impacting negatively on other patient call wait times and how this can be better managed."

It says access to online services also remains a potential area for improvement.

The report says: "Despite high levels of satisfaction generally across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCG primary care there is considerable variation in access and some patients are struggling to access primary care in a timely way with excessive waits to get through to book appointments or discuss issues.

"The CCG has shared the range of actions it has undertaken and is continuing to undertake in partnership with primary care to address this situation.

"The CCG welcomes working with the local council and system partners including the voluntary sector to consider the issue of digital inclusion for those who may have difficulties accessing some of the online platforms that can be used instead of telephony systems as it recognises not all sections of the community can access these routes."

Telford & Wrekin Council's health and wellbeing board will meet next week to discuss the report.

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