'Guaranteed' appointments with your GP
Sep 8, 2005 - 1:30:38 AM

Patients will be guaranteed the choice of being able to book an advance appointment with a GP under measures to improve access to family doctor services announced today by Health Minister Lord Warner.

The move to guarantee advance booking should allow patients to be able to fit in seeing a GP around their daily lives and remove the frustration of having to call their practice back on the day they require an appointment.

Checks will also be tightened to ensure that achievement of the 24/48 hour access target, which allows patients to book a GP appointment within two days, is a true reflection of patient experiences.

The strengthened checks will include tighter monitoring by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) by varying monthly survey dates, a sample check of PCT data and introducing more patient surveys to ensure that existing tests reflect patients’ experiences.

Lord Warner said:

“The Healthcare Commission survey confirms that NHS care outside of hospitals is improving. It shows improvements in GP access when necessary compared with 2004 and very high levels of satisfaction with the visit to the GP. However, the commission’s survey also brings to light areas where further improvement is needed.

“It is unacceptable that some practices are still not allowing patients to book an advance appointment with a GP. Patients rightly expect to see a GP at a convenient time more than two days in advance.

“They should not face the frustration of having to call their practice back on the day they want an appointment. Practices must already offer quick access to a GP, but we will move to guarantee patients more flexible access if they want to book ahead.

“The 24/48 hour access target is a key priority and has – by any measure – led to patients being able to see a GP more quickly. There is absolutely no justification for this target being used as an excuse for an inflexible appointments system. We recognise patient surveys show a gap between patient experience and the department’s data. Our aim now is to make improved access more real for everybody.

“We will make our system of checks more robust to ensure achievement of the target truly reflects the experience of patients across the country.”

Whilst official figures show a steady reduction in the percentage of patients who are being denied the choice of booking ahead, some GP practices are still operating restrictive booking systems preventing patients from booking an appointment with a GP more than two days ahead. Instead, patients are often required to contact their practice nearer the time.

The department will now ask patients and NHS staff what timescale they want to see in terms of a national guaranteed advance booking period as part of the ‘Your Health, Your Care, Your Say’ White Paper public consultation process. This will enable contract improvements to be agreed.

Virtually all patients can see a GP within 2 working days or a primary care professional under current measures of achievement against the 24/48 hour target.

All rights reserved by RxPG Medical Solutions Private Limited ( )