Healthwatch Suffolk report reveals 44% of patients have negative experience when booking appointments

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Archant

Nearly half of patients surveyed by a health watchdog in Suffolk admitted to having negative experiences with booking appointments to see their doctor, according to a new study.

The recently published Healthwatch Suffolk report suggested 44% of people who gave feedback had negative experiences with booking systems. Half of the 708 patient comments received about the topic had positive encounters, while 6% were classed as 'neutral'.

One person reported calling their surgery 70 times between 7.58am and 8.05am. When they finally got through, they were told all of the slots had gone.

The in-depth report features feedback given to the organisation between February 2017 and February 2018. In that time, bosses received a total of 1,792 comments – with at least 92 services in both CCG areas, Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk, being rated. According to the report, the overall rating for practices in Suffolk was 3.84 stars.

Problems with telephone systems and concerns about waiting times featured heavily in the feedback about appointment booking systems, while positive comments included praise for friendly and professional doctors.

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GP bosses said that in the current climate, demand for appointments is very likely to overtake supply of staff.

They also said efforts were being made to improve telephone systems and reduce queues in surgeries that had the highest amount of negative feedback.

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Dr Paul Driscoll, chairman of the Suffolk GP Federation, said: 'In the current climate demand is always going to overtake supply – we are not getting any new GPs any time soon.

'At the moment, we are trying to make sure we see the patients that need to see us.

'For example, we do have

people coming in that perhaps could be seen by a pharmacist instead.'

Efforts are also being made to ensure patients get appropriate care. Dr Driscoll added: 'In Felixstowe for instance, we have two paramedics working across our three practices helping us with home visits. This helps to free up GPs.'

Going forward, CCG chiefs said all practices have been offered care navigator training to help receptionists support patients in accessing the most suitable professional in the team.

This could be a GP, a nurse, pharmacist or physiotherapist.

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