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GP appointments: what you told us

02/01/2019

Having difficulty contacting GP practices by telephone is one of the main causes of concern among patients highlighted by our new report into accessing GP appointments.

More than 500 people from across County Durham shared their experiences of accessing GP appointments with us for our research. The triage systems used by some GPs were generally well received by those who had used them. People told us they appreciated being able to talk to a doctor quickly who could assess the urgency of their need and provide an appointment on the same day if needed. However, patients also told us it could be difficult to get through to GP practices on the telephone and that this could cause stress and anxiety. Having problems receiving a call back from the GP while at work was also raised as an issue by some.

Feedback on "care navigation" was also mixed. This is a new system all County Durham GP practices have adopted to help make sure patients are directed to the most appropriate service for them first time - as this might not be the GP. If a patient calls about one of seven specific pathways (e.g. stopping smoking, sexual health) a trained receptionist will go through a prepared narrative using specially designed computer software to decide the most appropriate support. Confidentiality was a significant concern for some patients, who were worried about discussing their health issues with receptionists. However, others who had used the care navigation system were pleased to have been quickly directed to the right support. 

We would like to thank everyone who shared their views with us as it has allowed us to gather valuable information about what currently works well and what could be improved. We are sharing our findings with GPs across the region and have created a checklist of points for them to consider to help them improve their systems. You can read these in the full report.

The region's clinical commissioning groups have now asked us to gather more in-depth feedback on the new care navigation service as implementation of it progresses. Please share your views with us via our online survey to help us make sure it works well for everyone.

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