The Holderness Health team met with Councillors from across South Holderness on Monday 12 July 2021 to update them on performance and answer questions. Hedon Town Councillor Steve Gallant was present at the meeting and residents had previously sent him questions to put to the team. He reported back via social media and also at the Hedon Town Council meeting on Thursday. This is Councillor Gallant’s report:
1/ Phone System – This is by far the biggest issue patients raise with me. The real problem arises between 8 am and 9 am, particularly on Mondays when they receive 800 calls in one hour. They are spending £85k recruiting more receptionists (on top of the £500k they already spend). They would still struggle to answer 800!
They are also employing Care Consultants to proactively contact patients, avoiding the need to ring in.
Considering that most appointments are given for 1 to 2 weeks after the call, there really is no need for everyone to call at 8 am. If you can, call later in the day. Also, if you can use the NHS App or their online booking system that will reduce the waiting time for those that really need to call urgently.
2/ Seeing the Same GP – Many patients would prefer to see the same GP each time, but that may mean you would have to wait even longer for their availability. This is why they offer the first appointment, as they want to deliver faster appointments rather than continuity of the same GP. At the moment, with so many staff ill or isolating ( 15 on Monday), it is much more efficient to offer the first available GP rather than a specific one.
3/ Appointments – They admit that it is taking up to 2 weeks for a consultation ( even a phone one) which is far from ideal. The reason they are taking so long is the sheer volume of consultations. In the last quarter, they have done over 22,000. That is 50% more than last summer in the height of the pandemic and is more than 100% than the pre-pandemic period.
I asked what is driving the huge increase in demand for appointments. There are three main causes:- 1 Long Covid complications; 2 Increase in Mental Health concerns; 3 Patients who have been referred for treatment but are now on waiting lists requiring pain or other treatment while waiting. All of which is understandable. What is horrifying is the scale of these extra demands on the service.
I did suggest they should be pro-active in communicating the scale of problems they are facing as people would be much more understanding if they knew the facts. I hope this report is widely read and will increase patients awareness.
4/ Face to Face Appointments – The NHS is still insisting consultations should initially be on the phone. The practice is starting to increase the proportion of patients that can be seen face to face and from September they will be using Church View Surgery again to increase their capacity to do this. When face to face consultations do happen, they take a lot longer than they used to as the GP or Nurse has to do a complete cleansing of their room and themselves before they can see the next patient.
5/ Online Consultations – Apart from the NHS App, Holderness Health has also introduced Klinik which allows patients to have an online diagnosis. Use has gone from 4/day last spring to almost 50/day now. Patient feedback is very positive so far. The Practice would like to encourage more patients to try Klinik to relieve pressure on the appointments system.
6/ Flu and Covid Booster Programme – The Practice have done an excellent job on the Covid vaccinations for our community this year. Now they are planning the autumn Flu Programme. They hope to start earlier than usual, but that is dependent on having sufficient Covid boosters available, so they can administer both jabs at the same time.
7/ Holderness Health are starting a Patient Participation Group to improve feedback from patients. The first meeting took place on Monday, July 19.
I know people have been frustrated with getting access to care recently, but the team at Holderness Health share your frustration and they investing in more staff and other ways to access care while the NHS continues to struggle with the volume of work the pandemic and the knock-on effect it has had on other health issues.
So please do continue to let me have your feedback on problems but also please do recognize the very real strains the pandemic is putting on local NHS services and the staff who provide them.
We will add the App and Klinik to our Quick Links.