Phone Lines / Systems
We looked at waiting times, queuing systems, recorded messages, and appointment systems.
We looked at how user-friendly and accessible they were, and whether they contained key information.
There was variation between practices, and our aim was to share good practice so all Haringey GP services could be improved.
Phones - Key findings
The average time taken to answer phone calls was three minutes, and over a third of calls were answered in under two minutes, which is good. However, there were practices where we waited much longer to get through (over 20 minutes).
Most practices had introduced a queuing system for phone calls, but 10 out of 40 Haringey practices had not.
The shortest messages were around 30 seconds, the average message was around one minute, and the longest messages were two minutes long. Some used an automated voice, which was harder to understand than a human one, as well as using complicated words and technical language which were hard for patients to understand.
16 out of 40 practices only offer same-day appointments, asking patients to call in at 8am. If patients cannot get through, or all the appointments are gone by the time they get through, they are asked to call again the next day.
- Phone calls – Practices with long phone waiting times to review their systems and ways of working in order to bring these wait times down.
- Queuing systems – Practices without a queuing system to consider introducing one, so patients know where they are in the queue.
- Recorded messages – Ensure these are as short as possible. Use a human voice, and plain English, which is simple and easy to understand, avoiding complicated words and technical terms.
- Appointment systems – Practices to return to offering patients future appointments (as well as same day appointments) which can be made throughout the day, avoiding asking patients to call in at 8am every day.
Websites - Key findings
All practices had a website, listing key information including address, phone number, opening hours etc.
There was variation in the quality of websites, including how user-friendly and accessible they were.
Some practice websites did not carry key equality and diversity information, e.g. interpreting services, translation function, wheelchair access, BSL access, Safe Surgery information.
Ensure practice websites:
- are accessible, intuitive, user-friendly, and in plain English;
- have a search function;
- provide alternatives for contacting the practice if patients cannot get through on the phone;
- carry comprehensive out-of-hours information;
- provide information on interpreting services and incorporate a translation function;
- provide information for people with disabilities, e.g. wheelchair access;
- display the Safe Surgeries banner if they are part of that scheme.