Helpful receptionists - but you might not see the right doctor

September 02 2021

LOCAL GP surgeries have helpful receptionists, according to the results of the annual NHS GP Patient Survey.
In our area, nine out of ten people rated the receptionists at their surgery as helpful and nearly everyone said they had confidence in the medical staff they were seen by.
However, more than half of the time patients didn’t get to see the GP they wanted to. On average, 55% of the time they could only get an appointment to see a different doctor.
Getting through on the phone to speak to the helpful receptionists was also a big issue at most surgeries. The worst performer was Hanham Health, where nearly half of patients said it was hard to get their call answered.
There were marked differences in customer satisfaction at Cadbury Heath Healthcare, Close Farm Surgery, Hanham Health, Kingswood Health Centre and Orchard Medical Centre.
Hanham scored lowest out of the five surgeries in six of the areas measured, including answering the phone, GPs giving patients enough time and showing care and concern, patients seeing their preferred GP and feeling that their needs were met, as well as overall experience.
Over the past four years, the it got 17% harder for patients to get through to the surgery by phone.
Close Farm Surgery was best at answering the phone (81%), but one in five patients was dissatisfied with the appointment they were offered and a similar number felt their GP didn’t take mental health issues into account.
Cadbury Heath Healthcare scored highest for overall patient needs being met and the experience of making an appointment at the surgery was generally good. However, four out of ten patients weren’t satisfied with the available appointments.
Kingswood Health Centre was awarded full marks for patients trusting and having confidence in its GPs. Unfortunately it did less well when supporting patients with long-term conditions, getting the lowest score of the five (72%.)
Orchard Medical Centre came top for GPs showing care, concern and allowing patients enough time. On the other hand, a third of patients were left unhappy by the appointment-making experience and two thirds couldn’t see their preferred doctor.
Around one in six patients from all five surgeries had to use other NHS services when they were unable to get an appointment or their surgery was shut.
Kingswood (26%) and Hanham (23%) patients were most likely to head to A&E when they needed a GP but the surgery was shut.
The survey of GP surgeries was carried out by polling group Ipsos Mori for NHS England and NHS Improvement, and was based on around 850,000 responses to questionnaires sent out nationwide from January to March this year.
Kingswood ward councillor April Begley, at a meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s health scrutiny commission, said she had been told that people were phoning doctors’ surgeries only to find they were number 100 in the queue.
She said: “If people feel that they cannot speak to somebody then very often what they are doing is going to the A&E, and that actually is helping nobody.”
Kingswood’s other ward councillor, Andrea Reid, said: “I know at my own practice that I’ve often had to call 70 times – hang up, redial, hang up, redial – and then find that I’m close to 30 in the queue.
“I hear similar from local residents in surrounding practices.”
Commission members asked for a report showing the extent of the problem and what was being done to help patients.
Record numbers of patients turned up at the A&E departments of Southmead and Bristol Children’s hospitals in June, at a level usually seen in winter months.
Health officials have urged people to help them manage the problems caused by staffing shortages and Covid-19.


Cadbury Heath Healthcare
Pros - Understanding mental health (93%)
Cons - Seeing preferred GP (52%)

Close Farm Surgery
Pros - Answering phone (81% found it easy to get through)
Cons - Understanding mental health (84%)

Hanham Health
Pros - Confidence in GPs (98%)
Cons - Answering phone (53% found it easy to get through)

Kingswood Health Centre
Pros - Confidence in GPs (100%)
Cons – Enough help managing long-term conditions (72%)

Orchard Medical Centre
Pros – Helpful receptionists (96%)
Cons - seeing preferred GP (33%)