Only three of Croydon’s 56 GP doctors’ surgeries consistently provide correct information on patient registration and a helpful way with good attitude, according to an insight report published today by Healthwatch Croydon. And at two surgeries in the borough, phone callers were left waiting for an answer for 12 minutes or more.
The poor levels of information provided by Croydon GPs could be one of the reasons that many patients opt to visit Accident and Emergency departments of the borough’s hospitals, costing the NHS a “significant” amount, Healthwatch’s findings suggest.
Healthwatch, the borough’s health and social care services monitor, carried out a “secret shopper”-style exercise over a five-week period at the end of 2018, and came away with some shocking findings.
Publishing their report today, Healthwatch said, “Registering at your GP is crucial to ensuring that patients can get access to health services. Unfortunately, there seems to be barriers to registration concerning information on registration processes.
“This means people cannot gain access to services they need and are more likely to end up in accident and emergency departments where they know they will be seen. It also affects the health economy, as thousands of unregistered patients seeking services usually in urgent care and accident and emergency settings can cost providers significant income.
“Registration numbers also help define how much money Croydon health and social care services can get in terms of funding from central government, so it is important that all who can register.”
Healthwatch’s research, How Do I Register? – A mystery shop of Croydon’s GP practices comprised of a simple mystery shopping exercise. Staff and volunteers rang up every Croydon GP practice three times over a five-week period in November to December 2018 to ask one question: “How do I register with your practice?”
They found that:
- Waiting times: The average waiting time was 2min 34sec, with 36 surgeries below this time, and 21 above this time. However, there were two which we did not pick up after 12 minutes.
- Staff attitude and helpfulness: 68 per cent of practices’ attitude was positive and just 8 per cent of practices were negative; 70 per cent of practices were seen as helpful and 9 per cent of practices were unhelpful.
- Accuracy: 77 per cent of practices did not give the national standard information that they could just fill in a form without any identification. Just eight practices (15 per cent) gave the correct information, but not all gave consistent good customer service.
- Websites: While 58 per cent found themselves consistent with what they said on the phone, but only 7 per cent had placed accurate information on their websites. Nearly 1 in 5 of Croydon’s GP practices (18 per cent) did not have a website or any information on registration that can be accessed online.
Today, Healthwatch made the following recommendations to the Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and each GP surgery:
No ID needed: GPs should meet national standard as defined in the Primary Care Contract in registering people without any ID.
Use NHS standard information: GPs should make the process of registering easier, applying the well-written and clear information shown on NHS website to their own websites.
Use the standard NHS form (GMS1) : While they might want to know more, this consistency ensures all relevant data is received
Offer practice address: GPs should clearly show that people with temporary or no fixed address can register under their GP’s practice address.
Focus on the “service” aspect: It is, after all, the National Health Service. Practices that have applied customer service principles service industries register better patient experience.
Dedicated staff and phone lines: By placing dedicated phone lines with staff specially trained for call answering, waiting times on the phone will be reduced and positive patient experience will increase. Staff will feel supported too.
Gordon Kay, Healthwatch Croydon’s manager, said, “GP registration is central to enable people to access the health services they need. It is also important that health service commissioners know how many residents are registered so that services can be planned, managed and delivered accurately.
“We have found inconsistent information about registration with common place barriers such as asking for ID, and requiring addresses – details which are not required to register. We have also found really good examples of those GPs who have done this right.
“It is clear that a commitment to the principles set out in the Primary Care contract and enhanced levels in customer service have made a difference to their patient. This should be an inspiration for, and good model to, all surgeries in Croydon.”
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