One in six patients in Ipswich and East Suffolk wait a week to see a GP
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A health watchdog says a gap in people's experiences of booking a GP appointment could be narrowed if there was more awareness of alternative sources of support.
According to a recent NHS annual patient survey, one in six patients in Ipswich and East Suffolk had to wait seven days or longer for a GP appointment.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said there remains too much variation across the county in how people find booking a GP visit.
“The reasons for this variation are diverse but it includes that there are too few GPs and insufficient awareness about alternative sources of support.”
He added: “The NHS desperately needs to make booking and cancelling appointments much simpler across the county.
“This would help to reduce “did not attends” and would help people to better understand how the appointment systems work within their practice.”
“In addition, better communication is needed with patients to help people understand the challenges faced by practices and to explain why seeing a GP may not be their only option.”
The issue was most pronounced at Saxmundham Health Centre, where 35% of patients had to wait a week or longer to get an appointment, compared to Ravenswood Medical Practice in Ipswich where the figure was just 2%. However, Jayne Coulson, practice manager at Saxmundham Health, said this is because they offer one-to-one GP appointments rather than triage or drop-ins and would always make time to see a patient in an emergency.
She said more could be done to let patients know when it would be more suitable for them to see a physio or pharmacist to free up GPs for vital appointments.
“One of the issues we have is when they want to see a certain doctor on a certain day,” she said.
“I would dispute the fact they have to wait a week, you can always be seen on the day, however that may be different if you want to see a specific GP.”
A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning group said: “GP practice staff work hard to ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible, and 80% of patients have expressed satisfaction with the appointment they are offered.
“Where a patient has an urgent issue, practices will do their very best to offer a same day appointment.”