There has been much negative publicity about General Practice recently, particularly about face to face (F2F) appointments. We would like to update you regarding the service we offer our patients at Phoenix Health Group (PHG).
Continuity of care and the personal relationship with a GP is at the centre of our core values. Our doctors, nurses and other health professionals have been seeing patients face to face throughout the pandemic and we would like to reassure you that we will continue to do so. However, the patient (or patients’ representative) needs to have a telephone consultation with their registered GP first.
Appropriate and timely access means that our patients can speak to their GP generally within 48 hours, or on the same day if the issue is urgent. In many other practices the wait time is measured in weeks! If as a result of that call a decision is made that you need to be seen, you will be offered an appropriate F2F appointment which may be on the same day. This gives all our patients prompt and appropriate access to our service.
The reasons for our telephone first model include:
- Many medical problems can be dealt with over the telephone. This is more efficient for both doctor and patient. Less than a quarter of medical problems require a F2F appointment. Patients no longer need to take time out from work or miss school to visit the doctor.
- Efficient use of the available resources at PHG to ensure prompt access to a GP rather than a longer wait for a routine F2F appointment.
- If a F2F appointment is needed, most of the medical history is taken over the phone. Therefore, the F2F appointment is mainly for the examination. With Covid still circulating it makes sense to minimise time spent in close proximity to another person in a confined space.
- The telephone call enables your doctor to arrange suitable investigations before a F2F appointment. For example if a patient complains of tiredness then blood tests can be organised so that the results are back before they see their GP. This is more efficient and makes the F2F consultation more productive.
- The increasing use of technology has enabled patients to send in images of lumps, bumps, rashes, skin lesions and so on which after being seen can be followed up by a telephone call. This is a welcome tool for many patients.
- The initial telephone call enables the GP to perhaps redirect the patient to another health professional who is more appropriate. For example a patient with a musculoskeletal condition could be directed to a physiotherapist or osteopath. This is just one example of many. Patients get better care in a shorter time.
The success of PHG is demonstrated by the continuing growth of the practice (1000 new patients a year), the excellent monthly friends and family test results (in September 97% of our patients where happy with our service), and one of the best GP survey results for Gloucestershire.
All of this is happening when there are enormous challenges facing General Practice including:
- A general shortage of GPs (5000 extra GPs were promised 5 years ago but never materialised)
- A shortage of GP locums
- Earlier hospital discharges and increasing hospital work being given to GPs
- Delays in hospital appointments
- Increasing complexity of medical conditions and their treatments
- Shortage of practice nurses
- Increase in Covid related consultations
- Delivering the Covid vaccination programme
- Large increase in mental health and stress related issues
- General increase in patient demand.
PHG also acknowledges that improvements can be made. We are in the process of trying to expand our GP workforce, practice nursing team and receptionist team. We are investing in a new telephone system that will improve the experience when contacting the surgery which we know has been a particular area of frustration for some patients recently.
New premises are desperately needed to house our expanding workforce and provide the best possible service to patients. This will hopefully materialise in time – so please be a patient patient, and please do not take out any frustrations on our PHG staff. They are also under extreme pressure and working flat out to deliver you the best care they can.
The PHG philosophy is to treat our patients as we would wish our family members to be treated – one cannot really aspire to more than that.