●● WITH Dr Paul Bowen, a GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton, and executive chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) A 10-MINUTE GP appointment, Monday to Friday, is not always adequate to meet patient need, yet this remains the norm for many GP surgeries.
One solution is to add ‘more of the same’ – more appointments, evenings and weekends – but is this really the answer?
If so, where will these GPs come from?
At a time when most GPs will tell you they cannot work any harder, or any longer, what options are there?
The answer emerging from local practices across eastern Cheshire is that it is not just about adding more GPs.
The future lies in collaboration between practices, community services and the hospitals, using technology differently and providing alternatives to the 10-minute default.
Many practices nationally, and some locally, are adopting a system of an early conversation with the GP or nurse before an appointment is offered.
This already happens out of hours and for urgent problems.
It is estimated that 40 to 50 per cent of requests to speak to or see a GP can be managed without the patient visiting the surgery.
GPs are skilled signposters for patients and have access to the whole care record plus local NHS and other resources.
When a patient or carer phones or emails the surgery, they are called back (or emailed) at a time and number convenient for them, depending on urgency, and by a doctor of their choice if available.
The consultation can be completed by a face-toface appointment, up front tests, or onward referral.
It is a great way to maintain continuity and provide follow up.
It improves the availability of face-to-face appointments if needed, reducing waiting times and stopping the 8am rush for appointments.
Local practices are seeking funding to increase capacity and roll out service improvements such as this.
GP surgeries and out of hours GPs will need to collaborate to offer appointments for working people and weekend/ evening urgent issues.
With this system, people get the right advice or appointment with the right person at the right time.
We will support our surgeries who wish to work like this to empower people, reduce dependence and build confidence in our local NHS.
●● Dr Paul Bowen