Patients need better education on the need for triage to reduce demand on GP services, the Welsh healthcare safety watchdog has said.
Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, which inspected 27 GP practices across seven health boards, said in its 2016/17 report that some patients were struggling to understand why they were given an appointment with a healthcare professional other than a GP.
It said this comes despite GPs ‘attempting to communicate’ their triage systems ‘and the reasons for it’ to patients.
But it added: ‘Health boards should consider whether they can support this with wider communication to help patients better understand why these systems are in place.’
On the whole, HIW concluded that patients valued the care they received from their GP practice.
The report said: ‘We found that practices were working hard to provide safe and effective care to their patients, against a challenging climate of significant demand for GP appointments at a time when recruiting sufficient numbers of GPs can be difficult.’
But it found that sometimes appointment booking systems were not working in the best way for all patients.
The report said: ‘Practices need to ensure that their appointment systems are as accessible as possible to patients who may have additional needs. We found that sometimes the arrangements were restrictive as they only allowed bookings to be made in a certain way.’
HIW chief executive Dr Kate Chamberlain said: ‘Our report shows that patients were generally happy with the care and treatment provided to them.
‘The majority of practices, however, need to do more to explain how other services may be able to help patients.’
GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones said the BMA is ‘fully supportive’ of any means to address the problem of explaining triage systems, ‘including wider communications to patients’.
She added: ‘GPs across Wales continue to strive for the best level of patient care, despite the immense pressures they are faced with on a daily basis.
‘Despite these continuing challenges, we’re pleased to hear that patients value the care they receive from their GP.’