Dr Knut Schroeder and Sophie Randall explore how to address patients’ fears about accessing GP care
Numerous headlines claimed that GPs were deterring patients from accessing care when the pandemic hit last year.
GPs know this wasn’t the case. But there is no doubt that patients have been reluctant to seek medical help during the Covid-19 pandemic, including for screening, immunisations, follow-up of long-term conditions and assessment of serious symptoms. Some patients are not accessing care even remotely, for fear of being called in for a face-to-face appointment. A ‘Covid Choices’ survey conducted by the Patient Information Forum in July 2020 showed that around one person in three stated they had delayed getting help, which increased to two in five people with diabetes, lung disease and mental health problems.
Now we are in another national lockdown, these problems may be amplified. GPs will have their hands full administering the Covid-19 vaccine but it remains vital that patients can – and do – access services in ways that meet their health needs and preferences.
Two key ways we can achieve this are by communicating better with patients and by providing information tailored to their needs. But how do you know what information your patients need? And how can you get it to them when they don’t attend? Here, we explore ways to ensure patients are well informed.
Key learning points:
• Provide clear and practical advice to patients on accessing your services
• Offer people with acute and long-term conditions choice about how they receive care (for example, remotely or in person)
• Provide or signpost to translated information and information in different formats
• Make information easy to access, use and navigate
• Make it easy for patients to give feedback
• Promote information so it reaches the people who need it most
• Signpost sources of support effectively, both within and outside your practice (on helplines, charities, NHS website)
Dr Knut Schroeder is a GP in Bristol and founder of Expert Self Care. He helps organisations make reliable health information available through mobile apps. Sophie Randall is director of the Patient Information Forum, the leading UK membership organisation for people working in health information, patient information and health literacy
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