Patients praise GP practice

Patients at Bondgate GP practice in Alnwick are benefiting from a new appointment system which is helping more people get access to healthcare advice quicker than ever before.

Tuesday, 15th November 2016, 9:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 2:54 pm
Dr Graham Syers (left), patient Teresa Dixon and practice manager Tony Brown outside The Bondgate Practice in Alnwick which has introduced a new appointment system which is benefitting patients.

Since introducing a new telephone and online booking system, The Bondgate Practice and its branch surgeries in Seahouses, Embleton and Longhoughton have seen a dramatic improvement in the number of patients getting access to appointments and advice on the same day.

Patients simply call their usual GP practice on the day that they need a consultation and can also now use a new online booking system to request a doctor to call them back. The new system means GPs can talk directly with patients over the phone and are therefore much better able to judge how much time may be needed to support patients with their problems and, equally, who is the most appropriate health professional to meet their needs.

Around 70 per cent of Bondgate patients are now having their clinical needs met by speaking directly with a GP or other health professional over the phone, on the same day, with no need to come into the practice. Around 30 per cent of patients who need same-day advice still need a face-to-face appointment with a GP due to the complex nature of their problem and, since introducing the new model, they are also now getting same-day access.

Teresa Dixon, from Alnwick, is one patient at The Bondgate Practice who has benefitted from the new appointment system and is also a member of the surgery’s patient participation group. She said: “The new system is making a huge difference to patients and now means that people who really need to see or speak to a GP get access to advice very quickly and always on the same day.

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“Our local GPs are very busy and it is excellent that the practice have undertaken this work to make sure all patients now get access to help when they need it most. I have heard very positive feedback from everyone who has used the new appointment system which is so much quicker and very easy to use.”

Improving patient access to GP appointments in Northumberland is part of a wider ‘vanguard’ programme of work, involving all 44 GP practices, to create a more joined-up health and care system where patients have quick and easy access to the help they need, at the right time and in the right place. Many other GP practices are also adopting telephone consulting systems to help meet the huge increase in demand from patients.

Dr Graham Syers, a GP at the Bondgate Practice in Alnwick, said: “We really welcome the support we’ve had from the vanguard programme to allow us to look, in detail, at the demand on all four of our practices and how we could change, develop and improve access for patients.

“Since introducing telephone consultation as an option we have seen a huge difference in our ability to meet everyone’s needs on the same day, with the majority of people now more than satisfied by speaking to a GP over the phone, or by having their treatment needs met by our other highly-experienced practice staff.

“Our drive is always thinking about how we can deliver the very best care to as many of our patients as possible. Time is a very precious commodity in today’s busy NHS and this new appointment system means, as GPs, more of our time is now freed up to spend with those who have much more complex care needs.”

The Bondgate Practice in Alnwick is also one of the six practices across Northumberland involved in training newly-qualified pharmacists in a different way by embedding them as part of the GP practice team. Working closely with GPs, district nursing staff and social care workers, pharmacists are helping to proactively identify vulnerable patients who are at risk of hospital admission to keep them safe and well supported at home.

This includes visiting care home residents to ensure they are taking the most effective combinations of medication and that they stop taking medicines they no longer need or want. This vital pharmacist input is helping to improve understanding of medication, involving care home residents and their families in decisions about their care and, crucially, helping to reduce the amount of unnecessary medication being prescribed.

Tony Brown, practice manager at Bondgate, said: “Like all GP practices across the country, we knew we were swimming against the tide in terms of the demand on our services. We also knew, by listening and engaging with our patients through the vanguard programme and through our patient participation group, that same-day access to advice was the most important factor for our patients.

“Before we introduced this new system we were only able to see around 520 patients every week and now we are regularly able to meet the needs of 250 - 300 more patients on a weekly basis. We simply couldn’t have met this demand without a different approach.”

Building on successful work over many years to integrate health and social care in one of the most rural counties in England, the NHS in Northumberland is now well ahead in delivering a fully joined-up primary and acute care system and working towards a single integrated accountable care organisation from April 2017.

This will be a first for the NHS and will bring together all the different parts of the NHS in Northumberland which are responsible for commissioning and providing health and care services - crucially, it will include the local authority.

The aim is to better co-ordinate care, make sure patient and carer experiences are as seamless as possible and support people to stay healthy and well. To do this in Northumberland, all partners will be working towards a set of shared quality objectives focused on keeping people healthy and well.