Patients across Norfolk are being urged to be ‘appointment-wise’ this autumn and do their bit to help family doctors cope with increasing demands.
Once you've read this story, check out Dr Dent's interview on YouTube!
In the last year in central Norfolk, more than 130,000 appointments booked by patients to see a GP or practice nurse were missed, resulting in the patient being classed as ‘Did not attend’, or DNA.
In a typical year, each area experiences the following appointments where the patient did not show up:
• Norwich 45,000
• South Norfolk 45,000
• North Norfolk 48,000
Some of these appointments were for 10 minutes, others were for 20 or 30 minutes. Added up it means thousands of hours of GP and nurses time that could otherwise be devoted to seeing patients goes unfilled.
Stalham GP and Chair of NHS North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Anoop Dhesi, said: “General practices are keen to provide the best possible service for their patients and get them seen quickly.
“Patients can support their local practice to do this by letting them know as soon as possible if they are unable to attend or no longer require an appointment, so that other patients can benefit from a cancellation.”
Simone Johnson, Practice Manager at Parish Fields Medical Practice in Diss, says: “Practices are busy all year round, but particularly during the run-up to the winter months – so naturally there is more demand on appointment spaces available on a daily basis.”
“Each practice has a system to ensure a patient can access an appointment based on their individual need, and people with long-term conditions often have appointments booked at regular intervals in advance. Patients can do their bit to help their practice by familiarising themselves with the system of booking appointments.”
There are a number of things patients can do to prepare themselves for booking or changing an appointment:
• If you can’t make an appointment, let your practice know
• Do you need to see a GP or practice nurse? Many consultations on common illnesses and cuts and scrapes can be supported at your local pharmacy, as well as helpful information on NHS Choices.
• GP appointments are generally 10 minutes long. This is for one ‘matter’ only.
• Check your practice’s website – many surgeries offer online facilities to book or change appointments, as well as updated information on the time and dates of routine clinics
• Give the practice your latest mobile phone number so they are able to contact you – some practices also offer a text reminder service for appointments
• Long-term conditions – if you require regular check-ups, make sure they are in the calendar and, if you are unsure if you need to attend, ask your practice for more information
Dr Chris Dent from Oak Street Medical Practice in Norwich said: “We would also ask patients to talk with our receptionists when they call to book an appointment.
“Receptionists are valued members of our practice staff who are there to help you and who will treat your information confidentially. If you talk to them about what is the matter or what you need then they can ensure you get to see the right person at the right time. We think this is better for all patients and helps us provide an even more efficient service.”