“We have zero continuity. I don’t know how to help patients frustrated with not being able to see the same doctor.” Heather Potter’s passion for her patients comes through in every conversation, but that was April. When I called last week the change since we first talked was astonishing. “Getting continuity with the patients means the call is so much more relaxed.” Heather had just had her two week summer break when we spoke, but was about to take an extra half day because there wasn’t enough work to do, all patient demand satisfied. “This has never happened before” she smiles.
Surprises continue: “The patients love it when I call them so soon. It might be only 5 minutes!”. The practice has already surveyed 110 patients and more than 50% say the new system is better, versus only 20% say it’s worse. Median time to return a call was down to 31 minutes last week. Previously Skewen ran a version of the Advanced Access system, but found it unsustainable. On top of frustrated patients, demand was outstripping supply, with doctors working until 9pm, feeling burnt out and with nowhere to go.
Having taken a thorough look at themselves and their practice through Pathfinder on 31st May, the partners decided to launch in just over 3 weeks on 25th June. All the training, preparation and patient communication was in place, and they dived in. Oh, and a new practice manager arrived in the meantime.
Safety for patients is at the top of every GP’s priority, and I was struck when Heather told me “This system is much safer medicine because I’m in control of who I see or don’t see.” Now receptionists don’t turn away any request for help, .though their work has changed too as they are encouraged to give information and solve patients’ non-medical problems themselves. Already in the first six weeks this is having a positive impact on doctors’ workload.
For Skewen it’s early days but Heather says “There is no way we are going back. Our message should be out there asap to give other GPs a chance to think this through.”
27 November 2013 update from Heather Potter: “Winter has hit us and it is busy but we still feel we are seeing those that need us most with patient access.”