Thank you for bearing with us and our new appointment booking system that was rolled out last Monday 26th April. We have listened to early feedback and hope the following questions & answers help you to understand the system further.
Patient’s who we believe to not have access to the internet are also being sent this information in the post.
What is an online form?
The practice is using ‘Online Consult’ which is a system that has been designed to assist patients wanting to contact their surgery. It can be accessed via a ‘link’ which can either be found on our Website or through a text message which can be sent to you.
The system includes a choice of options that relate to particular medical concerns and/or administrative related requests that you may need from the surgery (such as prescriptions, sick notes, letters from the doctor & test results).
By selecting an option specific to your medical concern or query a form can then be generated which asks relevant questions relating to that particular issue. This is then presented in a format which is really useful to the doctors who then read the form to decide on the most appropriate next steps.
What if I can’t choose an appropriate option on the form?
There is a ‘general health query’ form which can be used if you cannot find a specific option on the list.
The doctors would be grateful if this is only used when you cannot find the right form as it is not as effective at capturing all of the helpful information which they read when dealing with your request.
Why is the surgery doing this?
Across England GPs and their teams have been reporting that they are busier currently than they have ever been. Recently published figures have shown that in England GP practices delivered almost 5 million more appointments in March 2021 than the month previously, and nearly 3 million more than they did in March 2019.
This has been reflected with increasing demand for appointments at the surgery since the New Year which reached unprecedented levels in March. This probably relates to a number of areas as people are vaccinated and feel more confident, COVID restrictions are slowly lifted and a number of services within the surgery are restored. The situation is further complicated by a need to also still provide staff to undertake the COVID vaccination programme.
We have now reached a stage where we need to safely identify and prioritise those medical concerns which require more urgent attention whilst spreading more routine work across our clinics. This process needs to be undertaken by our clinical staff with their medical knowledge and experience rather than by our reception team.
Using the ‘Online Consult’ form helps our doctors to ensure that our patients receive an appropriate appointment with the right person in a suitable timescale, it is helpful prior to a consultation as some important details about the nature of the condition have already been captured, it potentially helps patients to self-manage certain conditions or directs them to other healthcare professionals who may be able to assist (such as pharmacists) and it helps us to deal with administrative requests more efficiently.
What happens to the form once I submit it?
You should receive a confirmation text from the surgery so you can be assured that we have received it. If you have not heard via text within 4 hours of submitting the form to confirm receipt of it, please call the reception team and make them aware of this.
We have a dedicated Dr reviewing all forms throughout the day from 8:00-5:30pm
All forms are reviewed and actioned by the doctor within 2-3 hrs of them arriving during these working hours
The reception team are then contacting patients via phone or text to confirm the outcome of this form. For most this will be on the same day but may be the following the day if not as urgent.
What if I can’t access an online form, how do I still make an appointment?
We want to reassure our patients that if they do not have the means to access an online form or feel unable to navigate this, then the request for an appointment can still be taken by our receptionists over the phone. However, they have also been asked to take some extra details to help assess and prioritise the request. This will then be reviewed by the doctor in the same way as an online form as detailed above. As a result there will unfortunately be a longer wait on the phone until more patients feel confident to directly use the ‘Online Consult’ system.
Everyone is still able to request appointments with this new system.
What if I have a more urgent health concern?
If the problem is immediate and life threatening you must dial 999.
The surgery still has a dedicated home visit and emergency line 01905 368502, which can be called from 8:00am-6:30pm. We would respectfully ask that these are used for urgent concerns and home visits to keep the lines free for these specific requests. A form is not needed to request a home visit with a doctor.
The reception team now work in the same room as the doctors looking at the online forms and are able to actively seek advice on how to assist patients, particularly if they feel it is a very urgent situation.
Why are we being advised to book up to 6 weeks in advance?
In our original announcement we wanted to make patients aware that we have pre-bookable slots as well as more urgent capacity.
The pre-bookable slots are often suitable for patients who have spoken to a doctor and are then asked to have a routine follow up appointment, say in a month’s time, which can be booked in advance.
What is happening with face to face appointments?
Nationally practices are working to a standard operating procedure set out by NHS England. In March 2020, this requested that practices move to a telephone first model. This was put in place to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading and protect NHS staff and patients.
Although the COVID picture continues to improve nationally, the NHS is still working within an elevated risk level and as such practices are having to adhere to this operating model.
We have continued to see patients face to face throughout the pandemic when a medical examination is necessary, usually after they have discussed this over the phone first. Through the online forms we have increasingly been able to directly book face to face appointments.
Looking ahead we know that many patient appointments can still be completed safely over the phone, but as the risk levels improve we sincerely hope that face to face will become the ‘norm’ again as it was before the pandemic and our clinicians very much look forward to this contact again.