There have been many instances of patients' interactions with staff being a cause for concern because of the manner towards the staff.
We felt it would be beneficial to update you on some of the changes in the way in we provide services to our patients which will hopefully explain some of the frustrations you have experienced
1. Long queues on the telephone
Nationally it is recognised that patient contacts to GP surgeries are at an all-time high. We, at Devon Road Surgery, have never had to field such a high volume of calls. This is due to the unavoidable back-log caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, plus running the largest vaccination program in history as well as increasing numbers of clinicians and clinics, all of which generate more calls.
To off-set this demand, we have extended the time receptionists are available, so that the calls are now taken from 08:00. We have introduced new telephone queuing systems, a ring-back service and DoctorLink (which enables email communication with the doctors.)
2.Difficulty in obtaining an ‘on-the-day’ appointment
As detailed above, there is national recognition that patient demand for appointments are at an all-time high. We do have pre-bookable slots which are released one month ahead. These are easily booked and are available online for those who use patient access online, myGP or the NHS app. To address our patients’ needs we have increased both the range and number of clinical staff who can offer on the day appointments. We have also introduced Doctorlink, on our website. This is an online consultation tool, which allows the surgery to offer an appropriately timed appointment for the problem sent in by a patient.
3. Not being able to book a face-to-face appointment with the clinician
Despite the varying opinions expressed in the media and press, the national infection control measures brought in by Covid, have not yet been universally lifted by NHS England. In our attempt to meet our professional responsibility to protect our patients and staff it is our policy to direct our receptionists to only book telephone triage appointments, unless it is for a procedure with a nurse. The Clinician will utilise telephone, photography or video consulting to diagnose and prescribe, or give the patient advice. If the Clinician feels it is clinically necessary to see the patient, they make the arrangement with the patient to come in at a specified time. The clinicians in turn organise the timing of their ‘face to face’ consultations to allow for the practice of infection control measures; this includes establishing effective social distancing in our small waiting room as well as thorough disinfection of the consulting room after each patient.
As I am sure you can appreciate, it has been an incredibly difficult period since the March 2020 lockdown and we are obliged to prioritise the minimising of risks to staff as well as maximising patients’ health and safety. We realise patients are now ‘tired’ of Covid and want things to return to “normal”. However, Covid has not ended and measures to contain it remain in place. We also must now manage the huge backlog of work from the previous year’s lockdown. We realise that all of this can lead to frustration, irritation and anger which impacts your interactions with our staff.
Unfortunately, it is normally the receptionists that get the outpouring of these frustrations. Receptionists are sometimes perceived by patients as being abrupt, obstructive or rushing them off the phone, but it is just a result of having to deal with such a high demand of calls, knowing there are long waiting times for each patient in the queue. They are also the staff tasked with directing the patient with the most appropriate Clinician to help which may differ from patients’ expectations. It is however, vital that they do this job to maximise our ability to help all patients.
I hope the above explains the current circumstances Devon Road Surgery finds itself in and what we are doing to try to mitigate them.
Finally, we would ask that you treat all staff with courtesy and respect at all times both over the telephone, in person and on social media. This is an incredibly stressful time for all of our staff and we would appreciate it if you could bear this in mind during your interactions with the Practice. They are doing their best to meet your needs.