The Improved Access scheme involves GP practices working together to provide more routine appointments for patients in the evenings and at weekends, which can mean you're offered an appointment at another surgery, or with someone other than a GP, such as a nurse or paramedic.
We worked with the Wiltshire GP Alliance, who provide the service, to see how well the service is working and whether any improvements could be made.
What did we do?
This project had several elements aiming to gather information in different ways:
- We visited a range of GP surgeries across Wiltshire during daytime, evening and weekend hours and interviewed 173 patients.
- We carried out a mystery shopping exercise. Our volunteers called 14 GP surgeries on two dates and asked about evening and weekend appointments.
- We distributed a survey for staff which aimed to gather their views about the service 85 staff members completed the survey.
- Access to evening and weekend appointments are valued by patients.
- Overall there was a greater preference from patients for early morning or evening appointments as opposed to weekend ones.
- Most patients said that they would be happy to see a nurse, paramedic or pharmacist where appropriate. There seemed to be increased awareness and confidence in the triaging process.
- 60% of the people we spoke to said that they would consider travelling to be seen at another surgery in some circumstances. However, there was concern that those who are unable to travel should not be disadvantaged.
- Improved Access appointments were used and managed in a range of different ways by different surgeries.
- Surgery staff were not clear about what Improved Access appointments were available at other surgeries and some reported difficulties booking these.
- Staff thought that the Improved Access Service had improved access for patients, but their views whether it was a good use of their time was more mixed.
- The people we spoke to reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment they received at appointments.
Conclusions and recommendations
The report concludes that access to out of hours appointments is something that is valued by patients and should continue.
We make recommendations which mostly concern the implementation of the Improved
Access Service and are based on the views of patients and staff.