GP practices in South Wales have been ordered to rethink their appointment booking systems as part of a major review of primary care services.
The Community Health Council, an independent regulator, made recommendations in its General Practice Monitoring report that will see all 67 practices in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area undertaking the review of telephone systems, triage arrangements and online/automated appointment booking procedures by 31 March 2015
They will also have to provide updates to the CHC on a bi-monthly basis and will be given six months to update their systems and make any changes, as well as informing patients of those changes.
This was a result of a survey of 80,000 patients and an inspection of the 67 practices in the region, which found that the majority of patients (74%) said they found booking appointments ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’, while 46.5% rated their experience of their GP practice as excellent and 46.3% rated it very good or good.
However, the board raised concerns about variations between practices, as 18.5% of patients said it was difficult and 7.3% ‘very difficult’ to book an appointment.
The chair of RCGP Wales, Dr Paul Myres, told Wales Online: ‘Appointment systems are difficult, if not impossible, to run in a perfect way as patients’ need for urgent or routine services does vary from day to day.
‘While satisfaction levels with general practice are very high, access is likely to get worse if NHS Wales does not address the issue of increasing workload on practices with diminishing capacity.’