Wales’s top NHS manager has called for a scheme publically rating GPs on lunchtime opening and other access measures to be rolled out nationally.
The patient-accessibility grading programme – launched last week by the Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council –gives practices a rating on five different criteria, including whether a patient can get an appointment before 8:30am, whether they can book an appointment in just one phone call and can speak to a real person between 8am and 6:30pm, whether the practice is open at lunch time, and whether the last routine GP appointment of the day is at 5:50pm or later.
NHS Wales chief executive, David Sissling, said this week that he wants to see the programme rolled out across Wales.
Outlining his plans for 2012 to Wales Online, Mr Sissling said: ‘I’ve been struck by the Aneurin Bevan Health Board’s GP access scheme – every health board needs to do that or develop their own version’.
‘It’s taking information about doctors and making it publicly available – we need to do more of that.’
91 out of 94 GP practices in the Welsh county of Gwent have volunteered to sign-up to the scheme despite rows last year between GPs and the Labour-controlled Welsh Assembly over plans to introduce extended hours. Only 26 of the 91 practices partaking in the programme have achieved a five-A rating on the launch of the scheme.
Dr David Bailey, chair of GPC Wales and a GP in Cardiff, said: ‘It will enable practices that are going the extra mile to let their patients know that that’s been recognised and that’s a reasonable thing to do and it maybe will make practices that aren’t providing the best access think about whether they can make their patients’ experience better’.
Speaking of concerns that the ratings will hit smaller, less-equipped practices in rural areas, the Welsh GPC chair said: ‘I think patients appreciate that you can’t provide a supermarket service in a corner shop, you can’t have a personalised service in a very small practice and necessarily have the open door time that a large practice ought to do because it employs more staff’.
A spokesperson for Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council commended GPs for signing up to the scheme.
She said: ‘Good accessibility is essential to offering a good GP service. This award will give welcome recognition to those practices trying hard to be available to their patients and give others something to aspire to.’