Health: Calderdale GPs 'need to do better' after patients left hanging on the phone and unable to get appointments

Calderdale’s GPs have been handed a raft of improvements councillors think should be made to improve access for patients.
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Access to surgeries, better communication with patients and improved recruitment and retention of staff need to be addressed by the borough’s doctors, according to a new report.

A review group of councillors have made recommendations they believe will help improve services for patients following evidence-gathering sessions and have referred their report to Calderdale Cares Partnership Board and Calderdale Council’s Cabinet for consideration.

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Issues raised with councillors and Calderdale MPs by the public have included access to surgeries and GPs, residents being unable to get appointments and been kept waiting on the telephone or being cut off, patients being unable to use online systems and a lack of face-to-face appointments.

Calderdale Councillors have made a range of suggestions to improve GP servicesCalderdale Councillors have made a range of suggestions to improve GP services
Calderdale Councillors have made a range of suggestions to improve GP services

Other complaints from the public include “poor” service ranging from misdiagnosis to impolite staff, insufficient numbers of GPs and residents expressing unhappiness at receptionists triaging patients.

The biggest complaint health watchdog Healthwatch Calderdale received regarding General Practice is waiting times on the telephone to get an appointment, with a struggle to get through and finding appointments have gone when they do.

Councillors acknowledged people pleased with services generally did not express their views.

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The review group were told by GPs there are multiple factors as to why General Practice is under pressure.

Work is becoming more complex and intense, partly due to an ageing population, meaning more people have multiple complex conditions.

There are initiatives to move care from hospitals into the community and there are rising public expectations.

GPs are retiring early due to stress and other factors and demands are even greater now due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recruitment of practice nurses is a particular problem.

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The councillors’ recommendations include that practices should offer more clarity about how appointments can be booked and complaints processes.

Practices should review their switchboards to give comprehensive data on waiting times and repeat calls and, by noting whether the calling patient has “risk” factors such as multiple illnesses, make every effort to arrange face-to-face appointments.

They should also identify steps to better recruit and retain GPs.

Practices and Primary Care Networks must also improve communication with residents about how system pressures are affecting services.