Over the last 3 months we have been trialling a new appointment system for on the day appointments. As we think it is an improvement on the old system, we plan to keep with the changes and so wanted to explain a bit more about it here.
What has stayed the same?
You can still book appointments in advance (usually about 4 weeks in advance) and can still book an appiointment on the day by phoning in the morning from 8am.
What has changed?
The issue is always what to do when all the normal appointments for the day have been taken. With the old system you would be asked if it could wait for the next routine appointment, and if not then whether it was something that could not wait until tomorrow. If it could wait, then you would be asked to phone again at 8am the next morning.
With the new system, you will instead be asked for a contact telephone number so that the duty doctor can call you (sometimes within a few minutes, and we would hope always within 1-2 hours). The duty doctor can then decide with you what is the best action to take. They might be able to deal with the problem on the telephone, or they could arrange for you to be seen that day, either by themself or another doctor, or they could agree with you to make an appointment for another day.
Why make the change?
WIth the old system patients could be asked to phone on repeated mornings, never quite sure if they would be able to get an appointment or not. This could be very frustrating for patients, and was not efficient for the practice either. The old system also required patients to decide whether or not something could wait until the next day - with the chance to speak to a doctor first this decision should be easier.
Will it make it harder to get an appointment?
Absolutely not - the major reason for the change is to make it easier to get the appointment that you need. If you feel that you would like to see a doctor that day in person then simply say this to the doctor on the telephone and they will arrange an appointment for you. Often it is not clear whether you need to see a doctor or just speak to them on the telephone, and for many a telephone consultation will work just as well and means that you can get on with your day while you are waiting for the call rather than have to come to the surgery.
If the doctor can make an appointment for that day, why can't the receptionist?
WIth the new system we hold back a small number of appointments for the duty doctor to use. This helps them to have better options to book the right patient to see the right doctor, and it is often not until the problem has been discussed with the patient that the best approach becomes clear. The doctor can also decide on the urgency of the situation and over-ride the appointment system on the basis of clinical need.
What if the doctor doesn't call me back?
Sometimes it may be that you seem not to have been called back. The doctor will always try at least twice to get through to you, and will leave a message to say that they have called if they are able to. However, sometimes, with mobile phones especially, there are problems with calls getting through, or occasionally we may have recorded your number incorrectly and you don't receive a call. If you have not heard from us within 2 hours of your call or if your problem becomes more urgent while you are waiting then please call the surgery and speak to reception. They will be able to see if the doctor has tried to contact you and will make sure that your call does not get missed.
As this is still a new system we would value your feedback of both good and bad experiences of the new system so that we can continue to improve it over time.
Do remember that for very serious or life-threatening emergencies it may still be most appropriate to call 999.