Appointment system changes – Going live 7th June

Over the last couple of years, the Covid Pandemic has changed the way we provide General Practice care. It has been a very challenging time and we had to be responsive; moving quickly to ‘on the day’ service, providing the Covid vaccination program whilst also trying to maintain General Practice services with high staff sickness levels. Our clinical demand locally and nationally has now reached levels which are not sustainable in the current way General Practice is being offered. Nationally there are now 1,608 fewer fully qualified full time GPs compared to numbers in 2015 despite the promises of increased recruitment. As a result, each GP is looking after approximately 300 more patients. In January 2022 there was a total of 25.7 million appointments nationally, which is an increase of 0.5 million since January 2020. Our own consultations rates in Alresford have increased month on month despite the challenges of increased staff sickness and difficulties with recruitment. In March we offered 2925 appointments and this was an increase of 15% and 17% offered in February and January respectively.

As we are now moving out of the pandemic and addressing the backlog, we recognise the need for the appointment system to change. We have listened to your feedback and recognise the importance of having access to pre-bookable appointments as life is returning to normal. We have responded to increasing demands by recruiting new members to the clinical team such as Helen Hall (Acute Nurse Practitioner) and Megan Power (Paramedic Practitioner) to help us deal with the emergency workload. We have in addition recruited Dr Hannah Harring as a new salaried GP and recently appointed two more GPs to the clinical team who are replacing retiring GPs in June. We now have access to musculoskeletal specialists via reception and several of the local opticians offer a Minor Eye Conditions service. Please be aware our staff have been trained and may appropriately direct you to an alternative service, which may be better suited to your problem thus ensuring you can access GP appointments when you really need them.

Our new appointment system will provide a balance of on the day emergency care alongside pre-bookable appointments (up to 7 days in advance). We hope that this system will provide a better balance of appointments for the Alresford Population and preserve some of the continuity of care we have lost. In addition, we have boosted our access for those who are more vulnerable by having additional slots throughout the day for this group to access. There will be a range of methods for booking appointments including online, by telephone and through the e-consultation service via our website. We will return to offering direct access to either a telephone or face to face consultation.

While we will continue to try our best to respond to increasing pressures and demand, please be kind to us and be reassured we are doing the best we can with what limited resources we have. It is vital that we work together and you too play your part in helping your local surgery by only accessing us if you really need to. Below is the advice from NHS England (‘Use the right service’) to consider when addressing your healthcare needs. We have also included a helpful website to access if you are worried about your child’s health and are uncertain of which service to use. If you feel you would like to be more involved with the practice directly, please consider joining our patient participation group by contacting us at the surgery – “Use the Right service” “Healthier Together”