Helping GPs to help you

A checklist to help GPs make their services more accessible and responsive is being sent to all GP practices across County Durham – based on the feedback you’ve shared with us about your experiences.

Endorsed by the local clinical commissioning group, our checklist and recommendations aim to help GPs ensure their practices are best meeting people’s needs.

When we asked for your health and social care priorities you told us GP appointment systems were one of your main concerns. So, we visited practices across the county to gather general patient feedback and also captured the views of more than 500 people specifically regarding appointments.

Our checklist was based on this research and asks GPs to consider several key points to help improve services, including:

  • Can your patients speak in confidence, without being overheard both in the reception area and on the telephone?
  • Does the reception have the right balance of offering confidentiality, being a safe working area and minimising the barriers for patients to communicate with reception staff?
  • Are your opening hours meeting patient needs?
  • Are the telephone systems fit for purpose, do they provide patients with information whilst they are on hold or in a queue?
  • Are patients given appropriate information and advice to understand what Care Navigation is and how it might help them access the right services?
  • Does your practice currently offer Triage? If not, is it something you might consider given the positive response from patients who had accessed the service?
  • Has your practice reviewed its website recently? Is it up to date and easy to navigate through?  Do you provide information on how patients can make a compliment/comment/complaint?

We are already seeing improvements as a result of our work, including a review of the use of screens in one practice to make the reception more accessible and changes to car park bays in another so it is more accessible for people with disabilities. Another practice has employed more nurse practitioners to reduce appointment waiting times - all evidence that your feedback does make a difference!

If you feel your local GP practice could improve its service you can suggest improvements by contacting your local Healthwatch or your practice manager. 

Any GPs who would like to discuss our findings can contact us on 0800 304 7039 or We are happy to visit practices or attend practice manager forums to talk about our work.

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