Results of Patient Survey on Access

Background

As you may have read in surgery, the Patient Participation Group had its Annual General Meeting in September 2011. One of the priority areas was for the practice to look at improving continuity of care; that is, for patients to be able to access the doctor of their choice.

We have been working on a number of ways to improve this, including engaging with the local hospitals to ensure that they send letters about patients to the preferred GP.

However, the group suggested that we change the booking system to allow patients with new problems to be able to book up to 2 weeks in advance but patients needing a review of an ongoing problem to be able to book up to 4 weeks in advance. In other words, patients already under the care of a doctor would have first choice of, at least, some appointments

Since this would be a major change of policy and have potential implications to those patients who do not regularly see a doctor, we felt that it was prudent to undertake a patient survey to get a wider view of patient opinions.

Survey Results

The survey is ongoing and we will put the final results on the Patient Participation Page of our website. However, we write now because it has revealed some startling and unexpected results. These are the highlights (note that answers may not add up to 100%, since not all patients answered all questions.)

  • We have had 211 surveys returned so far
  • 55% of patients said that they preferred to see the same doctor (45% didn’t mind who they saw)
  • 27% said that they were normally able to see the same doctor and 47% said that they sometimes were. 22% said that they were rarely able to see the same doctor or that it was difficult.
  • When asked about what would be the preferred appointment system:
    • 26% said they wanted only book on the day doctors appointments
    • 30% said they preferred booking up to a week in advance
    • 11% said they preferred booking up to 2 weeks in advance
    • 6% said they preferred booking up to 4 weeks in advance
    • Only 12% said they preferred the proposed system where patients with new problems could book up to 2 weeks in advance and those being reviewed could book up to 4 weeks in advance
    • 6% said they preferred an alternative system where patients with new problems could book up to 4 weeks in advance and those being reviewed could book up to 4 weeks in advance.

The bit that concerned us was the responses to a control question we put in to check patients understanding of the current appointment system.

The current system allows on the day booking with a doctor for problems that patients feel need to be dealt with urgently, and booking of doctors appointments up to 4 weeks in advance.

  • Only 19% of patients correctly identified this as the correct system.
  • 25% thought we still had only on the day booking
  • 18% thought patients could book only up to 1 week in advance
  • 9% thought patients could book only up to 2 weeks in advance

We think that the fact that only 12% of patients liked the proposed system means that we should not proceed with it.

Taking the results at face value suggests that the system that the most patients would prefer is to return to a system that has lots of on the day appointments and prebooking only up to 1 week in advance (being mindful of the government preference for longer prebooking times.) But the fact that over 80% of patients got the current system wrong, makes us think that we need to be more cautious about making changes without more consultation.

Other useful information you might like to know (we will put more details on the website)

We changed to the current system in June 2010 following a thorough review. We have consulted with patients and had an NHS appointment expert assisting us. We have advertised the current system continuously since then on the TV in the waiting room at Glenpark and on all repeat prescriptions.

We have less patients per doctor than the national average, but according to national statistics, our patients consult us at a higher rate than almost anywhere else in the country.

We monitor the time to the 3rd available advance appointment every day. On average, waiting time for a routine appointment is under a week.

What we would like from you?

We would be grateful if you would spend a couple of minutes to answer 2 questions:

  • Firstly do you have any comments regarding the results we have presented here?
  • Secondly, what do you think our next steps should be?

We invite the views of any registered patient on these questions. Patients who are on our Patient Participation Group mailing list received a link to a SurveyMonkey email. Other patients can give us their opinion in writing, by making an appointment with the Alison Heslin (assistant manager) or by using the website contact form. Please note to verify patient identities, we will ask for your name and date of birth (but your views will be anonymised.)