In Shropshire there are 40 General Practices serving their communities, they range in size from serving over 17,000 patients to under 2,000 patients. In 2015 Healthwatch Shropshire, along with other local Healthwatch in the region, carried out a piece of research that showed patients lacked an understanding of how GP appointment systems worked and we are still hearing that message. Now practices are offering Extended Access appointments, where patients can book to see a GP until 8pm on weekdays and at times over the weekend, and can book appointments online we wanted to know how the patient experience has been affected.
The NHS recommends that people with fevers, stomach upset, aches and pains or headaches contact their local pharmacist instead of their GP so if people are using pharmacies we also wanted to know how they found the experience.
All of the patient feedback, practice visits, survey data and website review took place before the current pandemic and does not reflect the patient experience over the last couple of months.
Access to routine appointments
- 59% of people who told us about accessing routine appointments reported a negative experience. The feedback covered experiences at 29 practices, negative experiences were encountered at 18 practices.
Access to urgent appointments
- 83% of people who told us about accessing urgent appointments reported a positive experience.
Extended access appointments
- Eleven people contacted us about the Extended Access Scheme, nine of these were negative experiences. During our Enter & View visits we directly asked 38 patients about Extended Access appointments, 11 (29%) had heard of the scheme, the sentiment of feedback was mixed.
- At one surgery we were told that there is an extended hours cervical smear clinic which has had good attendance and the Practice Manager told us that this has resulted in an increase in uptake of smear tests.
- 38 out of the 40 GP practices in Shropshire had information about the Extended Access Scheme on their website. 11 practices (29%) who have information on their website did not have the information linked to their appointments page or their opening hours pages. 17 practices (45%) were giving either incorrect or incomplete information or both.
Continuity of care
- We heard from 14 patients about their experiences of being able to see the same member of staff for their appointments, 13 (93%) were negative and 1 (7%) was positive. At six of the seven GP Practices we visited we were told that there could be a long wait for an appointment with a named GP. Wait times were quoted as being between two and three weeks
Pharmacy service experience
- Twenty four people shared their experiences of using Community Pharmacies, 17 (71%) were positive, three (12%) negative and four (17%) neutral.
- There seems to be no method of sharing records of advice given in community pharmacies with the patient’s GP. It is unclear if records are routinely kept by the pharmacies.
General Practice Opening Hours
- Shropshire CCG told us that “From 1st October 2018, 100% of Shropshire patients have had access to pre-bookable and on-the-day appointments with a GP or other clinician, from 8.00am to 8.00pm on weekdays, and at agreed hours on weekends.”
- When we looked at the opening hours advertised on the Practice websites we found that total opening hours for GP practices vary from 36 per week to 60 per week. Ten practices (25%) advertise as being open at 8am or earlier every day during the week. It was unclear how the patients at the other 30 practices access appointments from 8.00am on weekdays.