Your thoughts on GP services welcomed by Voluntary Action North Lincs
LAST autumn, Who Cares undertook a research project into people's experiences of accessing their GP. This came as a follow-up to a similar project in 2009.
Who Cares made contact with nearly 400 people from across North Lincolnshire and asked them about the following main issues:
How easy it is to get an appointment (including whether it is possible to book same day appointments/ones in advance)
The attitude of reception staff
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Whether it is possible to see the same doctor regularly
Whether consultations are long enough.
The report contains responses from patients at 20 North Lincolnshire practices (although there were only a few responses for some). Unlike the 2009 report which only focussed on urban GPs, this report looks at rural ones as well and prioritises four specific practices – two urban, two rural.
While people's experiences varied widely between practices (and indeed different patients often had different experiences of the same practice) there were many common issues. The main issues were:
Difficulties in getting through to some surgeries on the phone to book an appointment.
Some surgeries do not offer appointments in advance, making it hard for working people to plan.
Experiences of reception staff are mixed.
Continuity of care is important to people (especially those with ongoing health issues) with many people wanting to be able to see the same doctor on a regular basis. Sometimes appointment systems do not make this possible
On the whole, people were happy with the care they received from medical staff once they saw them.
Some of the issues that came through in the research related to people's expectations of their GP.
Many of us expect or would like to have "Dr Finlay", who comes out to our homes whenever we are ill at all hours of the day and night and seven days a week, a doctor, who knows us and our families, and who will deliver our babies and will be there when we die. In reality, many of our GP practices have many thousands of patients which makes the personal service impossible.
Also, many people clearly did not realise they are no longer registered with a specific GP but rather with the practice. Although neither of these mean it is not possible to request to see a GP of your choice, it may not always be possible.
Our GP practices are no longer funded to provide the out-of-hours services, which they did in the past, for urgent medical problems.
These services are now provided by places including the Market Hill 8-8 centre, which provides general medical services to registered and unregistered patients from Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm.
Others include the out-of-hours GP services based at Scunthorpe General Hospital, pharmacies and the new NHS 111 phone line.