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GPs urged to focus on patient experience

GP leader calls for more Patient Participation Groups

OnMedica Staff

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The leader of the UK’s GPs will today urge family doctors to focus on their front of house services.

Launching a new BMA publication, "Developing general practice: Listening to Patients", at the start of this year’s Conference of Local Medical Committees, Dr Laurence Buckman, the Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, will stress the importance of the patient experience.

"This is the year of quality, when we show our patients and the public what we can do and how well we can do it. I want to ensure we are consistently responsive to our patients and to praise the GPs who just get on with it – who deliver care in difficult areas, with hard-to-reach patients, with the unemployed or the poor."

"It should be normal for all of us to think ‘how does this look to my patients?’ We can always improve aspects of the practice and in doing so make the surgery more inviting."

"Developing general practice: listening to patients" was put out to consultation in March 2009 and asked GPs and patient groups to share their experiences of developing and improving their non clinical services.

This final publication contains innovative examples of how GPs have developed services for their patients. For example, a surgery that has interactive computer pods in its waiting room so patients can record feedback on a touch-screen computer giving staff live comments on the care and services being offered. Others offer web-based prescription ordering services which can be linked to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice for easy dispensing. There are also IT systems which allow GPs to see online all correspondence relating to a patient, their test results and if in-patients, which ward they have been admitted to, making overseeing their patients’ care easier and quicker.

The guidance offers advice on how GPs can best manage opening times and their often complex appointment systems and suggests the development of practice charters. It also encourages GP practices to set up Patient Participation Groups (PPGs). At the moment only around a third of surgeries have PPGs. The GPC believes PPGs are the best way to gather local patient input into the services run by a practice.

In his speech to the conference Dr Buckman will say that the £8 million currently used on the national patient survey could be better used to develop these groups and will say it is time to move away from the current "sham" way of measuring patient satisfaction with access.

"Real access is what patients need - not just hitting rigid political targets. We must persuade the NHS to stop playing along with this deception that patients are getting what they want. They want high quality service with good access, not a sham to get a government re-elected on promises nobody believes anymore." 

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