Herts Valleys CCG explains why patients may experience delays in getting through to GP surgeries
Herts Valleys CCG serves Dacorum, St Albans and Harpenden, Watford and Three Rivers, and Hertsmere
GP services in Dacorum are busier than ever before with some residents reporting problems making appointments.
Herts Valleys CCG - which serves Dacorum, St Albans and Harpenden, Watford and Three Rivers, and Hertsmere - says it is supporting practices to improve and update their telephone systems to enable additional functionality to manage calls going into the surgeries.
It says this should make it easier for people to get through.
The CCG is also about to support practices to improve access by offering more appointments, both during normal working hours and also in the evenings and at weekends.
Across all practices in Herts Valleys CCG, there has been a 13 per cent increase in the number of monthly appointments attended compared to before the Covid pandemic. This is an increase of 28,501 appointments for the month of September 2021, compared to September 2019.
A resident from Hemel Hempstead contacted The Gazette after he could not get an appointment at Bennetts End Surgery.
He said: "I think someone needs to look at what is happening at Bennetts End Surgery, it is impossible to get an appointment phone or in person this is putting people in a dangerous situation."
At a recent event bringing together GPs and over 60 members of the public to discuss this topic, practices were asked to explain to the public why there are sometimes delays in getting through to the surgery.
Herts Valleys CCG said: "We are sorry to hear the experiences of people who are finding it difficult to get through on the telephone or who are unhappy with the types of appointment offered.
"If you need to see someone in person, you still can. We appreciate your patience during this difficult period.
Why are things different from before the pandemic?
"Official data suggest that up to 1 in 50 people in England have COVID-19, so infection control remains a high priority especially in healthcare settings where there are sick and
"To keep patients and staff safe we need to avoid crowded waiting rooms as well as to carry out cleaning between patient consultations and so it isn’t feasible for practices to see as many people in person as before the pandemic.
"If we can meet your needs by a telephone or video call this could be safer for you and others and can often be quicker and more convenient.
"Currently around half of appointments are in person. Your GP team will make sure they arrange these types of appointments when needed.
"Your GP practice team is working hard to make sure that you get the same high standard of care whether you receive help on the phone, by a video call or in person.
"With practices now doing more work over the phone, and due to the increase in the number of patients seeking help from their GP, including for vaccination queries (flu and covid), unfortunately some patients are finding it harder to get through and are facing long waits.
"We know this is frustrating and can be disruptive for you. We are really sorry for this and are working hard to improve your experience when contacting your GP practice.
"Please do continue trying to get through to the practice on the phone when you need to and continue to use alternative ways of contacting your practice, such as filling out a secure web
form (e-consult) from your GP website.
Helping you get the right appointment for your needs
"The reception staff are trained to support you to get the right appointment for your needs and sometimes you might be asked to give information that you would prefer not to share
with someone other than a doctor or health professional.
"It really does help to have this information in order to arrange the right appointment for you.
"You may be offered an appointment with a different trained professional who works at the practice rather than a GP if this is the best person to help you.
"This might be a nurse, a paramedic, a pharmacist, a healthcare assistant or a physiotherapist.
"We know that most of you will continue to treat your practice staff with courtesy and kindness. This is really important for all the staff at your practice and they appreciate it.
"Thank you for your patience and support during these difficult times for everyone."