Access to Primary Care

Letter to Patients in response to recent Government announcements (May 2023):

Dear Patients

We wanted to respond in answer your queries following the Government’s release of its “Delivery plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care”. A lot of the points in the plan are already embedded in many GP Practices, we felt it would be helpful to clarify current operational procedures at the University Health Centre.

We know first-hand that things have been extremely busy; the pressure and demand for appointments is very high, and continues to remain so.

As you will be aware, we made the move to cloud-based telephony several months ago and we think patients have appreciated how much better this makes the experience of trying to call us. However, you are also probably aware that better phone access doesn’t mean we have unlimited appointments to offer when you do get through to us.

To ensure safety, we do restrict our appointment lists morning and afternoon and will ask patients to contact 111 online or by phone or visit your pharmacy when we feel we have reached capacity on the day. We do not routinely ask patients to call us another day, but please bear in mind depending on capacity, we may not be able to deal with every request on the same day. Using 111 or your local pharmacy may be appropriate, and our staff will advise you if so.

The news about prescription medications being available directly from Pharmacies is welcome; we always ask patients to visit their local pharmacies for many minor conditions as you will find you can access excellent help and advice quickly. A lot of minor illnesses and injuries do not need a GP, so it allows us to be available for those that really do need an appointment with a GP, Practice Nurse or another member of the team. Please note however, these particular changes in the recovery plan are not in place just yet. Sore throats and ear-ache rarely require antibiotics and the pharmacies will also ensure only appropriate antibiotic prescribing in line with national guidelines. 

We already ask patients when they contact us for a brief description of the issue you are calling about. We don’t need a lot of information here – but it helps our team direct you to the most appropriate person, in the most appropriate time frame. We have Pharmacists, prescribing Advanced Nurse Practitioners, First Contact Physiotherapists, Mental Health Workers, Health and Wellbeing Coaches and Social Prescribing Link Workers as part of our team – you may be directed to someone other than a GP.

For patients with routine issues, not requiring urgent, same day attention we do ask that you call us later in the day – hence avoiding the “8.15am rush” and you will be offered the next available appointment. If you would prefer this to be face-to-face, please let our team know. Our staff are trained to recognise certain issues will require a face-to-face appointment and this will be offered if this is the case (i.e. an examination is required). We find that many issues are appropriate for telephone consultations, we can view your entire record and history, send prescriptions electronically directly to your pharmacy etc, and many patients prefer this rather than taking time out of their day to visit the practice and manage to park appropriately.

We appreciate the Government now states all appointments should be within two weeks. However, we know that many patients are happy to wait 3-4 weeks for their routine issue – often waiting for their preferred clinician. If we restrict booking to two weeks at a time, it means you may need to call us more than once or keep checking online for released slots – we feel it’s best to ask the patient and offer what is available and if they are happy to accept this, we think it is best to offer this.

We are pleased to see further advancement of the NHS app and we do recommend patients use this or PATCHS to order their repeat medication and on the NHS App you can also view your GP record and test results.

We continue to work very hard to offer the best service for our patients, we appreciate your cooperation and support.

Kind regards,

University Health Centre