Report Highlights Pressures on Rotherham GP Services

Published Tuesday, 8th July 2014
Visiting the doctor
GP appointment

Growing pressures on the borough’s GP services has been identified in a special report by Rotherham's Health Select Commission.

The scrutiny review found access to GPs to be a particular concern, with one in four patients unable to get a GP appointment when they first phone up.

Councillor Emma Hoddinott, Review Chair, said: “Alongside an ageing population, there are a number of GPs nearing retirement and we recommend that proactive steps are taken to tackle this.
“GPs play a key role as the main source of initial contact with the NHS for the vast majority of patients when they are unwell.

“It is therefore essential that people throughout the borough have access to high quality services. People’s health in Rotherham is generally below average for England and with a growing and ageing population and high incidence of long-term conditions, demand for GP services is high and likely to increase further. 

“To meet this demand it is vital that we have an adequate number of GPs and other health care professionals and that GP practices have effective appointment systems and the right skills mix in their staff teams.”

The report also highlighted the risk from a national review of GP funding that provides an uncertain future for doctors in the borough.
She added: "The Personal Medical Services contracts held by many GP practices are currently under review nationally by NHS England and there is a real concern that this will result in lost resources, impacting on both practices and patients.”

The report identified other areas including patients wanting a more responsive service from their GPs including the opportunity to sit and wait for appointments, and public confusion about where to go for what health problem.

However, 81% of respondents were very or fairly satisfied with the opening hours at their practice whilst 79% agreed their surgery was open at convenient times.

The report also showed good examples of best practice from some GP practices that could be shared throughout the borough. Examples included using text messaging and booking appointments online, youth clinics and supporting elderly patients.

Councillor Hoddinott added: “Patients need to be clear which is the right health service - GP, pharmacy, Out of Hours service, Walk in Centre or Accident and Emergency - to access the most appropriate care. Certainly, raising public awareness about these services would be beneficial.

“It was apparent that for various reasons some patients chose to go to the Walk in Centre or to the Accident and Emergency department at the hospital when they should have been seen by their GP.
“Nevertheless patients’ experiences of accessing GPs did vary from practice to practice with some long waiting times reported.

“However, we found that local GPs offered a range of appointment booking systems and one size did not fit all given the differences in practice size and practice populations. The majority of practices offered additional appointments beyond core hours in order to increase capacity to meet patients’ needs. The review recognised that some excellent work is taking place locally to improve communication and promote access for different groups and this good practice should be shared more widely.

“Patient expectations and preferences are changing, and it is a question of striking a balance between clinical need, patient expectations and convenient access, with practices needing to work with their patients to develop systems that work well for both. Patient Participation Groups are already helping to identify areas for improvement and there is scope to develop these groups further.”

Following the review, a number of recommendations were made by the Health Select Committee including:
  • Improving access – ensuring patients’ views on access and ways to improve are heard; maintaining access to professional interpretation services; and adopting hybrid and flexible approaches to appointment systems 
  • Sharing good practice – showcasing best practice and sharing successes on providing good access to patients 
  • Improving information for patients – maintaining up-to-date information about each GP practice; the importance of cancelling unneeded appointments; and accessing the right health care service and health care professional at the right time 
  • Capacity to deliver primary care – mitigating risk to primary care in Rotherham in light of future challenges; encouraging GPs to remain in Rotherham after training; and being proactive about future increases in demand.

View the Health Select Committee Scrutiny Review: Access to GPs documentimage