National GP Patient Survey 2023: Three primary care networks in Kirklees fall below the national average for patient experience
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A report to Kirklees Council’s health and adult social care scrutiny panel outlined the results of the National GP Patient Survey 2023.
Results for Kirklees are in line with the national trend, which sees a decrease in the percentage of patients saying that they have had a good overall experience at their GP practice.
In Kirklees, three primary care networks (PCN) – groups of GP practices in a certain area working with community services – fell below the national average for patient experience. These were Dewsbury and Thornhill, Batley and Birstall, and Greenwood, with the lowest ratings said to come from areas with more deprivation.
On the other hand, one PCN – The Valleys – had the highest ranking in West Yorkshire with 89 per cent of patients saying they had a good experience.
The survey also highlighted the problems some patients were having getting through to their GP practices by phone.
This topic was discussed at the meeting with Coun Jackie Ramsey, cabinet member for health and social care, explaining that she had heard people were having to repeatedly call their GP to get an appointment and wanted an idea of how long they could be waiting.
Dr Razwan Ali, planned and urgent care lead for Kirklees Health and Care Partnership, acknowledged that there had been issues with phone lines for a while and spoke of the push towards digitising services and using things like a digital queue on the phones, call backs and online consultations.
He said that such measures could free up the phone lines for less technologically-able patients and added: “We are aware that the pressures exist but we are actively seeking to address them.”
However, Kirklees’ services were said to be excelling in some areas with 85 per cent of GP appointments being on the day and, of those, 80 per cent are face to face, with this said to put Kirklees in the top 10 per cent nationally.
Coun Elizabeth Smaje (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) asked a question on similar lines, wanting to know how people who didn’t use technology could get an appointment quickly.
She told the meeting that people could sometimes be left waiting for 20 minutes when trying to get through to speak to somebody at the GP, even at quieter times.
In response, Dr Ali said the wait times were unfortunately a “manifestation of the pressures we face in general practice”, hence why there is such a drive to use online services to relieve some of the phone line pressures.
He added: “It’s not only a source of frustration for our patients, but also for our staff and our receptionists – one of the things that they often relay to us when they’re giving feedback on their annual staff appraisal is the pressures that they’re facing on the phone and the fact that they’re dealing with patients’ frustrations.
“If a patient’s been waiting for 20 minutes and they finally do come through, often they can be understandably short with our receptionists who often bare the brunt of it.
"What we’re actually seeing is reception colleagues leaving primary care and general practice because of these pressures.”
Continuing on the topic of GP practices was Coun Itrat Ali (Con, Mirfield) who asked a question about capacity and wanted to know how this was being addressed, particularly in light of her ward seeing a large number of housing developments in recent years.
Catherine Wormstone, director of care at NHS West Yorkshire ICB, said a strategy was being put in place to project whether practices could cope with the demand.
She explained that there isn’t enough money in the system to fix everything but some short-term plans had been put in place like the conversion of previous rooms and the use of community spaces like libraries.