The report Accessing GP care in Wolverhampton presents findings from Healthwatch’s investigation at the end of 2022. It makes comparisons to their previous reports, published in December 2021 and June 2022, to understand if patient access to GP appointments in Wolverhampton has improved over time.
Healthwatch Wolverhampton called all 56 GP practices in the city. They used a standard set of questions to assess the quality and accessibility of the phone booking systems used by the different GP practices and Primary Care Networks.
They identified a reduction in the number of GP practices that offer a call waiting system for patients who phone to book an appointment or seek advice and care. Overall, they found that improvements have been made over time to pre-recorded messages on the call waiting system, and there has been an increase in the number of practices signposting patients to pharmacies.
The report contains recommendations to help improve access to GP care, including reviewing and improving phone call waiting systems, increasing staff at busy times to cover calls and enquiries, and signposting people to less commonly used same day services, such as pharmacists, optometrists, and physiotherapists, in addition to walk in, NHS 111 and urgent care.
The report was presented to Wolverhampton’s Health Scrutiny Panel in January 2023. Individual GP practice data has been shared with each Primary Care Network so they can use the findings to share good practice and improve the experiences of their patients.
Stacey Lewis, Healthwatch Wolverhampton Manager said: “In October 2022, Healthwatch England identified that accessing GP services remains a widespread public concern, with difficulty accessing GP appointments being the most common issue discussed by people throughout the country. GP practices need to understand the experiences of their patients if they are to find ways to address these concerns and improve how they provide care. This report and our earlier research will encourage GP practices and Primary Care Networks to take action to improve the accessibility and quality of GP appointments over the phone. “
Paul Tulley, Wolverhampton Managing Director Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: “The Black Country Integrated Care Board (ICB), which is the NHS body responsible for commissioning general practice services in Wolverhampton, attended the Health Scrutiny Panel meeting in January and presented a report on access to GP services, including actions it is taking with GP practices to improve telephone and digital access for patients. Copies of this report are available on the Scrutiny Panel website. The Health Scrutiny Panel will be looking again at access to GP services during 2023 and the ICB will work with Healthwatch to support development and implementation of a further survey if that is requested by the Panel.”