Patients across Portsmouth area face problems calling GP practices, survey finds

PATIENTS are regularly facing problems trying to phone their GP practices, according to figures from a recent survey.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 9:01 pm
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 9:10 pm

The data from this year's GP Patient Survey shows accessibility of practices is inconsistent.

Kylie Chatfield, from Gosport, is one of many patients who find it difficult when trying to call for an appointment.

She is registered at the Willow Group in Gosport and said it is a postcode lottery.

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'˜There are so many inconsistencies when it comes to phoning your GP practice,' she said.

'˜I have given up trying to phone mine and now walk there to book the appointment. But when my boyfriend phones his surgery, he gets through straight away.

'˜It is an annoying problem but I don't know how best to resolve it. I know practices are under a lot of pressure.'

The questionnaire asked '˜how easy is it to get through to someone at your GP practice on the phone?' and only 15 per cent of patients at the Willow Group, in Gosport, said they found it easy.

The practice got the lowest score of GPs across Portsmouth, Havant, Waterlooville, Gosport and Fareham.

As previously reported, patients have complained to the group about the issues.

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Other practices with a low number of patients who found it easy to get through on the phone were Stubbington Medical Practice (34 per cent), Fareham's Highlands Practice (40 per cent) and Brook Lane Surgery (44 per cent) in Sarisbury Green.

Dr Donal Collins, senior partner at Highlands Practice, said: '˜We apologise to patients who have experienced issues getting through to us by phone and we recognise this has been an issue.

'˜We have moved to address this by recruiting extra reception staff since this survey was undertaken. We are trialling some software from our telephone suppliers to improve data around incoming phone call.'

Meanwhile, East Shore Partnership had the lowest figure in Portsmouth with only 35 per cent of patients finding it easy to get through to someone on the phone.

Senior partner Dr Elizabeth Fellows said they are aware of the problem and have been working to improve access. They were recently rated good by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

She added: '˜We have been one of the first practices in the city to introduce e-consults, an online messaging service which has been very well received by many patients.

'˜This allows those who don't have online resources an easier time to get through on the phones.'

Other practices in the city which had low scores were the Hanway Group Practice (41 per cent) and Devonshire Practice (51 per cent).

Elsewhere, Vine Medical Group in Waterlooville had 24 per cent of patients who found phoning their GP easy. It was the lowest figure of the town's surgeries.

A spokeswoman said: '˜We have seen a significant increase in demand over the past year but we have listened to patient feedback and invested in a new telephone system.

'˜The upgraded system allows calls to be better filtered. It also advises each patient of their position in the queue. In July, our average wait on the phones before answer halved.

'˜We have also recruited more call handlers.'

Homewell Curlew Practice had Havant's lowest figure of 46 per cent. A statement said they were aware of the problems and apologised to their patients.

It added: '˜We have invested in more staff to improve our call handling rates and as a practice we promote our online services including e-consult. We will furthermore be installing a new phone system.'

Just over half (52 per cent) of Bosmere Medical Group patients, in Havant, were able to easily get through.

Practice manager Sophie Walker said: 'We changed our phone system in April and it's much better now. The results maybe aren't a true reflection of how things are now because we have improved.'

All practices listed were asked for a comment by The News.

Additional reporting by Ben Fishwick and Tamara Siddiqui.