Torrington Park Group Practice
Patient Reference Group
Towards the end of last year the practice designed a Patient Participation Questionnaire which listed a range of questions not only about the services we provide but also about the indirect services as well, such as; customer service, the appointment system and patient satisfaction.
The questionnaire was successfully completed by 200 patients of various ages, gender, occupation and ethnicity. Patients were asked to complete the form and also to indicate which area in particular the practice should concentrate on. As you can see from the graphical and numerical results, and also the areas highlighted by patients, we have identified three areas that we as a practice will work on:
- The Appointment System
- The Telephone System
- Customer Service
On Wednesday 21st March 2012, the practice held a Patient Reference Group meeting where ten selected patients put forward their ideas about improving the three areas of concern. The event provided an opportunity to introduce ourselves as a practice and share the opportunities and challenges that we are facing. It was also vital to hear what is important to local people. We wanted to discuss ways of further engaging, involving and communicating with patients and the public as this will be vital in our work going forward. We felt that the event was a great success and we are taking forward many suggestions and points that came out of the discussion. The feedback received from those who interacted was that the event was worthwhile and that they would want to attend another event.
What was discussed at the meeting?
Participants felt that our appointment system needs some clarification in how it works, and how patients are able to get an appointment either on the same day or a future appointment. Talk about improving our system via the internet was also discussed in terms of booking an appointment via the web.
Issues were raised regarding the amount of patients that we have and also the shortage of appointments for these people, reminders or alerts was an aspect that was also raised to save appointments where people would forget that they have pre-booked.
Everyday at 8:30am appointments are released for that particular day, whether it is morning, early afternoon or late afternoon. In order to book an appointment for the same day patients are encouraged to call our telephone system which automatically places the caller in queue.
We are always currently reviewing our appointment system to see where can improve so that patients are able to get to see a Dr of there choice, their choice of times and days. For pre-bookable appointments we offer up to a month in advance but it does however rely on when the first pre-bookable appointment is available.
However, we do offer telephone consultations with our clinical staff so that non-urgent queries are dealt with easily and are not wasting appointment slots. We are however limited in terms of how many people would like to see a particular doctor, this is something that we cannot manage because it is on a first come first serve basis regarding same day appointments, if you were to pre-book you may be able to see your desired Dr.
Once all the appointments have gone for the day, we do offer 5 minute emergency slots where if a patient feels it is medically urgent and the problem cannot wait until tomorrow, the Dr will see them as an extra at the end of their surgery. In the near future we will be upgrading our clinical system which comes with many beneficial properties for example, a reminding service that will inform people that they have pre-booked appointments.
The second issue that arose from our practice survey and one that patients were concerned about was our telephone system. It emerged that participants were quite concerned with our 0844 telephone number, the fact that there should be something in our automated message when there are no appointments left so that people do not have to keep queuing on the phone.
Participants felt that when trying to contact the surgery at 8:30am for a same day appointment, it takes such a long time to get through that when they do eventually get through all the appointments are gone, they felt that this was due to the large amount of people that come in early morning to get an appointment.
As a practice we have an automated system which holds up to 50 patients at one time, this is the maximum capacity that the system can hold. The phone lines transfer from the ‘out of hours’ service at 8:30am, this is when the phones start to ring and receptionist can answer the incoming calls. Patients are placed in a queuing system according to the time of their call.
We offer a wide range of appointment times and we also have early morning slots starting at 8:30am for people that need to commute to other areas. We do not encourage people to walk in to the surgery and get an appointment that way, our policy has always been to give priority to the telephones, however, people do still come in but they are given an appointment after the phones have started to ring, this gives people calling a chance to get their desired slot.
As telephone calls are answered you are moved up the queue automatically, whilst you’re in the queue music will be played. When you reach the top of the queue and you are put through to a receptionist there is a break in the music as you are being connected, this can last for a few seconds before you are answered. Some people mistake this break for getting cut off and therefore result in placing down the handset and starting all over again from the bottom, however holding on during the break would resolve this.
With regards to the 0844 number used by the practice, this is a low call number; the cost of the call is determined by the patient’s telephone provider. We do not gain any money from our telephone service. Every telephone provider is different, and it is they themselves that set a price for you pay when you call, for example, skytalk and BT charge different prices for you to dial a 0844 number. It may be worthwhile contacting your service provider to discuss if you are allowed a selection of low cost calls.
During the presentation, the third and final area that was spoken about was the customer service level of the practice’s non-clinical staff. It was mentioned that not all members of staff are consistent with their customer service level to patients.
Our employees receive customer service training when they first join but we are aware that they require update training as well. Staff memorandums are used on a regular basis to make staff aware of issues where customer service has not been adhered.
Our training is predominantly hands on but we acknowledge the benefit of outside customer training. This summer we shall be holding two events, and we are confident that they will address the issues you have raised. Whilst we endeavour to have all desks and phones manned throughout the day there will be periods when staff may be required to do other tasks away from the reception area. Where possible this will be at times when the practice is quieter i.e., in the afternoons.
At Torrington Park Group Practice we aim to provide high quality information and services from high quality staff, to treat all patients and other people courteously at all times being fair, polite, respectful and professional, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. We aim to consult our patients regularly to obtain feedback on our services and to use that feedback positively, to act promptly and efficiently in our dealings with patients, being clear about what action will be taken and when.
Issues Raised By Patients In Our Survey
Below are comments made by patients, highlighting areas they feel the practice could improve it’s service. The discussion of these took place in our group meeting.
Customer service of staff
Appointment system at 8:30
Appointment system by telephone is very poor service indeed
More appointments should be available
Booking appointments is really difficult and not user friendly, why cant i book and appointment for a future date??
The appointment system does not meet patient needs, being told by members of staff that there are too many patients does not help
Often put on hold whilst ringing for a long time 0844 number is expensive by mobile
More appointments should be made available within a week to pre-book
Appointment system by telephone is very poor service indeed
With the daily 8:30 appointment system it is not always possible to obtain an appointment that day due to the large amount of callers. Appointments in advance are usually booked up for a month ahead
Appointment times via the telephone in the morning really needs to be improved
Booking an appointment on the day is almost impossible, the wait till a date to see a doctor in advance is very long
Have a complimentary therapist available for the patients, e.g. massage and accupunture
The telephone system at 8:30 is very frustrating
The practice is presently run by the staff who are not patient friendly, even this to fiddle with the Doctor’s decisions. I have been with this practice since 1972 and i am well aware of how it used to be run from the time of Dr R Nurse
The appointment system for same day, waiting up to 20 minutes on phone and then not being able to retrieve one
Prescriptions taking longer then two days
Staff never answer the phone and appointments are to far ahead
Getting an appointment with my GP and not having to wait 3 weeks
I hardly ever use the practice so everything is satisfactory for my needs
This is the only practice i have ever belonged to where i felt comfortable
Appointment system, difficult to get appointment with chosen doctor
Appointment system at 8:30am
Pauline’s attitude to other members of staff
Open on weekends due to work commitments
The district nurses, contacting them is not always easy and they do not wash their hands automatically when they do home visit, they should
Mothers not taking care of their children and running around when people are sick
Telephone system when booking same day appointments
Using mobile phones in waiting is not allowed larger notices need to be provided
Larger notices about using mobile phones
Access to doctor appointments, the telephone system is not fit for purpose
Calling for an appointment at 8:30am, i have to wait up to 30 minutes and when i do finally get through the appointments have finished
Appointment booking online
To provide annual health checks
Earlier appointments to see a specific doctor
Reception staff, one receptionist is often left on their own answering phone calls, dealing with patients, giving out prescriptions etc
Appointment system as when calling in the morning its a long wait and frustrating when after all that you cannot get an appointment
More information from reception staff about test results
Better ventilation in the waiting room
0844 numbers are expensive to call and more available appointments please
Nothing this practice is fantastic
Stop using 0844 numbers and use 0208, make available more appointments to book in advance say within 2 weeks to avoid the queues at 8:30am
The windows for booking appointments are too short, not good for the staff
The home visit system, it needs to be more consistent as it seems you never know which doctor will come out and you can end up seeing different doctors every time you request a visit
Booking an appointment by phone on the day
Telephone system at 8:30am
Reception staff have been very rude and nosey
Appointment system, very hard to get appointment on the same day
Communication by email and text messaging, much cheaper then calling on phone
Appointment system, almost impossible to get an appointment
Telephone system, reception and GP’s empathy
Being able to make an appointment for a few days or a week ahead. At present you have to phone on the same day for an appointment or book opne in 3-4 weeks ahead which is totally unsatisfactory.
Appointment system is so stressful, it is almost impossible to get through via telephone
Earlier appoinment with a GP of my chioce
I thought government guidelines stated that 0844 telephone numbers were not to be used by surgeries. Torrington park still use this facility and i object paying the cost when i have to wait a long time at 8:30am for my call to be answered.
Appointment system is chaos, in order to get any appoinment at all, one must start phoning at 8:30am and wait for 10 minutes to be told that your doctor is unavailable, this is unacceptable
Telephone contact, being held on for 15 minutes on an 0844 number is expensive
The length of time it takes to book an appointment and the length of time they have you waiting for an appoinment, you can wait for over an hour for your allocated appoinment slot
Telephone accessibility, cost of waiting on the line and then no appointments left
Punctuality of the appointment system