The rationale for this research was a lack of information around this patients' experience since the national lockdown in March 2020 and the change in how GP practices were operating in light of the pandemic.
In terms of access since March 2020, there was a change in the how the different modes of access were utilised with the majority of patients relying on telephones to make their first point of contact with their GP practices, rise in online consultations and decreased walk-in to the surgery premises. Delivery of consultations and reduced face-to-face consultations. In light of these changes, this research aimed to understand patient experience, seek feedback and inform recommendations to General Practice across South-West London.
A patient survey was co-created with patients through Healthwatch Sutton, Sutton Primary Care team, Sutton Quality Lead and colleagues from South-West London CCG. Many of these were mapped to the National GP Patient Survey to allow comparison to pre-pandemic findings. This was distributed to patients through their individual surgeries across Sutton (all 23 practices in the borough participated under the Engagement Scheme) as well as through local charities so as to ensure responses from a wide range of patient groups. The majority of the respondents had completed the survey online with over a 100 having completed this on paper. This survey was carried out from September - December 2020.
Overall, 3004 patients completed this survey split across the 23 GP surgeries. Results were reviewed and analysed by the NEL CSU Business Intelligence Team. Individual practice level feedback has since been utilised to have meetings (led by Healthwatch Sutton) with practices and their patient participation group to identify areas of good practice, areas of improvement and to create an action plan on how to continue to improve the service offered. Practices have until March 2022 to implement action plans.
- 89% of patients had contacted their GP surgery since the lockdown period commenced in March 2020. From the patients that did not contact their GP, most felt that they did not need to. Those that wanted to contact their GP but did not do so felt that they did not want to disturb the surgery, were following COVID-19 rules or thought that their surgery was closed.
- Patients had largely contacted their GP surgery via telephone (71%). Other modes of contact used by patients included online, face to face, video consultation and email.
- 76.5% found it easy to contact their GP surgery. For those patients that didn't find it easy to contact their GP surgery, the main reasons included long waiting times on the phone, phone not answered in the practice and long introductory message.
- Most patients responded that they were not given the choice of appointment, although 61% were happy with their appointment type. Those who were unhappy with the appointment type offered, indicated that they wanted a face-to-face appointment as they thought a phone appointment was not as effective.
- 70% of the respondents felt that overall safe and effective care had been received. Of those who answered 'No', the primary concern was around difficulty in getting an appointment. Additionally, some would rather have had a face-to-face consultation and/or believed that a phone consultation would not have met their needs.
These are drawn from feedback from survey followed by discussions between practices, patients and Healthwatch Sutton:
- Maintain traditional alongside remote modes - personalised offer and choice on appointment modes
- Publish an explanation of the booking system
- Publish an explanation of the triage system
- Explain how the practice plans to operate as the pandemic evolves
- Clear, visible and regular communication from practices
Healthwatch Sutton would like to thank Sutton Primary Care staff and PPGs for engaging with the survey, and colleagues from the CCG for organising the Engagement Scheme.