GP appointment anger

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PATIENTS in Sheffield are increasingly unhappy with the ease of getting a doctor’s appointment, according to a new report.

Research carried out by Sheffield Local Involvement Network - an organisation which gives local people the chance to influence health and social care services in the city - revealed satisfaction levels in Sheffield are below the national average when it comes to getting an appointment within 48 hours and also making appointments with specific GPs.

Two years ago, Sheffield LINk formed an action group to investigate access to GPs, in response to concerns about the difficulty in making appointments and long waiting times in surgeries.

In carrying out the research, the group set Sheffield’s services against national data, met with NHS Sheffield managers and investigated GPs practices. Their findings have now been published in a report which has gone before members of NHS Sheffield’s board of directors.

It shows that in 2009/10, 74 per cent of Sheffielders said they were satisfied they could get 48-hour access to a doctor, compared with 80 per cent nationwide, and 72 per cent said they were satisfied they could get an appointment with a specific doctor – compared to 75 per cent nationwide.

Eighty per cent said they were satisfied with their GPs opening times, just below the national average of 81 per cent.

“Sheffield needs to address its patient satisfaction levels in the area of access to GPs”, the report says.

“Although the figures for this satisfaction are falling nationally, Sheffield is several points below the national average on most measures. More efficient and flexible ways of accessing GPs are also likely to ease pressure on A&E services and be financially efficient.

“GP practices need to look at a range of solutions for ensuring that the public can access GPs at times and in ways that work for both.”

Karen Curran, head of primary care at NHS Sheffield, said measures had now been put in place to deal with the concerns highlighted in the report.

She said: “LINk’s report uses access satisfaction scores that are over a year old, and many practices have undertaken a number of improvements over this period.

“Most now offer many of the recommendations identified within the report.

“Over a period of 12 months GP practices have reviewed such things as appointment systems, being able to speak to or see a GP or nurse and improvements to communicating with patients.”