New way of booking GP appointments at Buxted and East Hoathly

Jackie smith, practice manager
Jackie smith, practice manager

A doctors’ practice has introduced a new way of booking appointments in a bid, they say, to provide a fairer system for patients.

Recent surveys by The Buxted and East Hoathly Medical Centres showed people wanted appointments improved.

In September they set up a system where people call or go online during the day to be offered a telephone assessment by a GP or nurse practitioner.

Practice manager Jackie Smith said: “We are pleased with the outcome and have had very positive feedback including on-line compliments.

“Patients ring for an appointment and a doctor rings them back to discuss an agreed plan of care. When you call we ask you to give brief details of your problem to give us some idea. This helps doctors.

“If someone is in great pain or has an emergency, of course we put them straight through. This means we see people who need immediate help, not just the ‘worried well’.

“Exceptions are children, although an older child, say 10 or 11, is capable of describing symptoms to us. This results in increased patient access to doctors and eliminates that huge early morning demand. Now our doctors are dealing with three times the number of patients - out of, say 15 patients, perhaps only five actually need to see a doctor.”

The system works by offering people a specific time when they will be called back, often within the hour, at the number they give but suggests people should keep their phone lines free so they don’t miss a place in the queue. “Anyone who needs an urgent appointment will be offered one by the doctor,” she emphasises. “All we ask is that you be patient as we get used to the new system.”

However not every local practice supports this system. Carol Midgley, Uckfield’s Meads Medical Centre practice manager, said: “We tried this and it was a nightmare. The administration was too time consuming and difficult and people were still working here until about 9pm. We have gone back to pre-booking on the day. People can pre-book a week ahead and there is also an urgent care clinic - if someone contacts us with an urgent problem they are seen that day. A doctor on duty is given a discreet warning about something serious and the patient is prioritised. This ensures we stay flexible.”

Meads, together with other centres, including Punnetts Town, operate a system where patients can attend the practice and wait until daily appointments have finished, when they are seen by whichever doctor is on duty.