The practice appointment service is a GP led system introduced in Dec 2013.
Our aims are:
- To improve ways for you to see or speak to your own GP
- To improve access to appointments either by telephone or face to face
- To give you a chosen time convenient to suit your daily schedule.
How the system works:
- You call the surgery to book an appointment between 8am-11am
- The receptionist takes your telephone number
- The receptionist will also ask for a short simple description of the problem in order that the GP can prioritise the most urgent cases first.
- The receptionist will put your name on your doctor’s ‘call back’ list.
- The GP will call you back within a given timescale of usually 1-2 hours
- GP will discuss your medical condition; he/she will either offer you a face to face appointment or will provide advice over the phone.
- Please note, on an exceptionally busy days we may only be able to accommodate medically urgent appointments if the demand is higher than usual.
- You may be offered a local GP hub appointment if your problem cannot wait or you prefer a same day slot.
Frequently asked questions
Please find below common questions regarding the new service. We will continue to review and add questions as we learn more about the service and in response to any issues that may subsequently arise.
Why have we introduced this new service?
Recent feedback from patients asking to speak to a doctor and not having to wait days or even weeks before they do so. Patients want reassurance that they are doing the right thing and want to know if there is anything else they can do. They often wish to talk to the doctors in the practice rather than be re-directed to A&E, the walk-in centre or even the Out of Hours. The doctors think this will provide a much better service for patients as the majority of patients will be dealt with by them on the day (even if some patients are asked to come back later)
What are the benefits of this service?
Patients call the surgery between 8am and 11am for either a morning or afternoon telephone consultation. We hope the majority of calls will be dealt with over the phone safety and effectively without needing you to come to the surgery. This saves you time, allows you to continue going to work or carry out your daily activities with the added reassurance of knowing that if the doctor needs to see you then it can be arranged. It also means we can offer many more consultations for patients than we have been able of late.
What if the doctor rings me back and I miss the call?
The doctors will do their best to ring you back between 1-2 hours, but this may not always be possible. If you miss the call, the doctor will try again. If you have not received a call back within 3 hours we would suggest you contact the surgery again and let them know. Sometimes we may have the wrong number and by asking you to call back, we ensure that contact is always made.
What happens if you are asked to book an appointment in a month's time for example?
Instead of booking an appointment to see us in a month's time, you will need to speak to a doctor who will book you in or you will be advised to call on the day to speak to a doctor.
What about patients who have a disability for whom a telephone consultation may not be appropriate?
We appreciate that this system may not work for all patients all the time. Those who are unable to talk to us on the phone will be given a face-to-face appointment with a doctor as they do now. But we would like to encourage all patients to try to find somebody who can speak English on their behalf or talk on the phone so that we can deal with your problems quickly and safely without delay. If this isn’t possible we will book an interpreter but require 3 days notice as they are very busy.
What happens to visit requests?
Visit requests will be checked by doctors as well as by the Community Outreach nurse to see if the problem can be safely managed over the telephone as well. A visit can often take up to 30 minutes - in that time we could deal with between 3-6 consultations. But we will continue to offer visits for those who need them.
What about online appointments booking?
Patients can only book same day on-line telephone consultations on line from 7:00pm for next day appointments.
You will be given a choice of appointment times to book throughout the day, if you wish to be seen by your GP you will need to discuss this in your telephone consultation.
* What happens if patients ring after 11am or just before the surgery closes at 6pm?
The receptionist will still deal with your problem especially if it is something medically urgent that cannot wait but we are trying to encourage patients to call before 11am in order that the GP can deal with all calls in good time and bring in any patient that requires a face-to-face appointment.
What happens if you can only receive calls between a certain time e.g. before 10am?
Please inform the receptionist when you book the appointment so that the doctors are aware and try to accommodate you as best as possible.
Do patients have to inform the receptionist of what their medical problem is?
You do not have to tell the receptionist what is wrong with you if you do not wish to. However it is helpful for the doctors to have some idea of what the problem might be so that they can prioritise calls based on what the receptionist tells them. We have a robust confidentiality policy that all staff adhere to at all times.
How is it possible for us to have more consultations with patients and still deliver better quality care for all?
Whilst considering the new appointment system, all the doctors have been reviewing patient consultations that they had over the past few months. This showed many patients came to see us face-to-face when in fact they could have been better dealt with by seeing a pharmacist for a minor ailment, see the nurse or have blood tests or other investigations done before seeing the doctor. By enabling more patients to be dealt with over the phone, we think it will give us more time to spend with those who need to see us whilst at the same time providing reassurance and a plan of action for those who are happy to be dealt with over the phone. Out of Hours services often deal with consultations over the phone safely and effectively too.
Can patients see a doctor face-to-face if they wish to?
Yes, patients can see a doctor face-to-face but they will need to book a telephone appointment with the doctor first who will make this decision. Many problems can be dealt with over the phone without needing to be seen face-to-face.
Do you have any further questions that you would like to ask?
We would like to hear from you if you have any questions or queries. Please send a comment via our website or write to the practice manager, or ask one of the doctors, nurses or receptionists when you are next in the surgery.
Alternatively you can join Hetherington Group Practice Patient Participation Group.
Information on the website.