Mounting frustrations over gaining access to a GP in York have been laid bare in a new report.
Watchdog Healthwatch York has published What people are telling us: Experiences of
York GP Services.
It follows the shake-up of GP surgeries caused by Covid, leading to more consultations over the phone and via video conferencing.
The report found that the use of telephone and online consultations has increased the number of appointments available.
But demand continues to outstrip supply. The report says: “Although digital triage solutions are working well for some, there is concern this increases the risk of deepening existing health inequalities.”
The report includes three positive comments about York GPs. One said: “Great service from (my GP practice) who did a home visit to give a Covid jab to relative with learning disabilities. Both times staff were friendly and supportive and explained everything they were going to do.”
But many more negative ones were also included.
What people said
Here are some of the experiences of York patients included in the report.
“You can’t book a non-urgent appointment until 10am. Phoned every day this
week at 10am exactly. By the time you get through the voice system, all the
slots have gone.”
“I am appalled by the lack of patient care from my GP practice. I am put on
hold for hours to find that no same day appointments are available. I wish to see a GP in person.”
“I have found it literally impossible… to speak to my own GP, [who has]
supported me through 15 years of having lengthy episodes of severe
depression. The only way to get a GP appointment… is to call the ‘urgent
care’ line at bang on 8am for a same-day appointment… I was told to do so
today [as a matter of emergency]. I called the number only to find that I was
already ‘in a queue above 30’. I was later [told] that they have 15 people
answering calls simultaneously for this one small group of surgeries, so this
immediately illustrates the scale of the problem.“
“Appalling system. You’re left on hold for hours or have to call back later.
Online system not fit for purpose. They get back to say you might have an
appointment in 14 days’ time. The only time you can see anyone face to face
is when you click urgent, and this means a life-or-death situation. Like many I
will have to find another GP practice.“
“It is so incredibly difficult to get through to the surgery! The call back option is
helpful but requires you having the phone with you at all times, and being able
to answer the call.“
Healthwatch York concluded: “What we must now collectively work on are ways of improving access for those least able to communicate in a digital-by-default society. The key to this is patients working together with general practice to get this right.
“There are some simple steps we can take immediately – where people are in
work or full-time education and unable to take telephone calls during the day,
we need to increase awareness of evening and weekend appointments. We
need to encourage people to be clear about times they can be available, as
well as times that they can’t be.
You can read the full report here.