"Frustrations about accessing my GP practice"

About: NHS Forth Valley

(as other),

I am writing about my experience of the apparent difficulties in communication within the NHS, between health professionals and GPs, access to GPs and perhaps most importantly the manner and attitudes of those working in receptions and on phones in surgeries.

I appreciate NHS Forth Valley, like many NHS boards, are experiencing a shortage in GPs and that this will impact on the service people can access. I acknowledge there are efforts and initiatives to rectify this going on.

I don't think people designing and delivering GP surgery policies and practices think about how these affect their patients. For example, at my practice, you cannot book appointments other than calling at 8 or 8.30 am and pressing redial until you get through (as lines are engaged).

If you are very unwell, have anxiety or worries around using the phone, have any hearing difficulties (as examples) then it is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I have had mornings where I've had to press redial over 25 times, and indeed a friend this morning was into the 30s. I do not know the solution, but I wish to point out how difficult making that call is.

You are worried you won't get an appointment (as they are all gone by 8. 10 for the day), worried that you'll have to explain symptoms over the phone, unsure if you are justified in taking an "urgent" appointment when if you could just see a doctor that week that would be ok.

Then when I get through to the surgery, the phone manner of those in the reception is unfriendly at best and unhelpful and rude at worst. Again I appreciate people are under pressure in their jobs but please remember when you speak to people who are calling a health centre it is likely because they or a loved one are unwell, scared, looking for help and reassurance. To be sighed at, snapped at, given a row for not calling early enough for example makes people feel awful. Being given reassurance, suggestions on where to get help if the surgery are not able to (pharmacies for example), would be a much more reassuring and helpful approach.

In terms of your policies and procedures within the surgery, please recognise patients don't know these. For example, if you can't give results until afternoon, patients don't know that, even if told before as mentioned above, when people access healthcare they are sick and or worried and perhaps don't retain all the information given. If you can only do repeat prescriptions within a tight timescale again people don't know that. Their results and medications matter to them, not your policies and procedures.

I believe the policies of having to call in at 8 am discriminates against groups of patients and I wonder what requirements are on people writing them to carry out EQIAs and similar checks?

Additionally, I'd like to point out that many will be reluctant to complain about their GP or the practice as a whole, in fear that they are treated less favourably in future. While this should not be the case, I believe it would be, and even if it isn't it means that we are not seeing a true reflection of people's experiences of GPs and practices due to this real or perceived fear. People have to continue to access the service, and in making a complaint risk being seen as a problem patient, when it is in fact the practice or service that is the problem! This is why I am not naming my practice here.

And to reiterate - manners cost nothing and can make a huge difference to how an unwell, worried, scared or anxious person feels. I would welcome a move to support those working in GPs surgeries to be more sensitive, empathetic and kinder.

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