Healthwatch Haringey interviewed Patient Participation Group members, GPs and Practice Managers.
We found that some changes have been positive for some patients who found telephone consultations more convenient and efficient. Practice staff found telephone consultations easier to manage.
E-consult has been of particular benefit to those patients who are working and have little time available.
But there has been a clear negative impact on some patients in the move away from face-to-face consultations. Most patients expressed a concern about this, either for themselves or for other patients who experience language barriers, mental health issues, multiple illnesses, or some disabilities. For GP's, diagnosis for some illnesses can be difficult with remote consultations. And the move towards phone consultations has meant GPs are perceived as becoming more distant from their patients.
Recommendations in the report include
Booking an appointment over the phone
- When calling the practice patients should be put through to a receptionist with minimum delay. Long recorded messages / lists of options (over 2 minutes) should be removed.
- Reception staff should not require detailed information about symptoms before booking appointments with clinical staff.
- Practices should make sure their website homepage carries up to date and accurate information including telephone number and opening times. These should be clearly displayed and easily accessible.
Telephone or face-to-face consultations
- Face-to-face consultations should be retained and reinstated as soon as practicable, and patients should be made aware that they can request a face-to-face consultation.
- Practices should review the use of eConsult and other digital platforms in partnership with their PPG and wider patient group.
- Data should be gathered on the success or failure of e-consultations.