Survey points way forward for Lerwick Health Centre
The problems with appointments at Lerwick Health Centre could be tackled by making better use of nurses and nurse practitioners and having a lead GP to run the practice.
These are some of the recommendations that emerged from a survey carried out last year by the Public Health Partnership Forum, which will be discussed by a meeting of the board of NHS Shetland next month.
Other suggestions from the survey include improvements to the waiting area, more flexibility of appointment times and the need for customer care, as patients’ desire for continuity of care with the same doctor came across strongly.
The survey was answered by 908 people, about a tenth of the practice’s patients. It found that 78 per cent of respondents were unhappy with the appointment system, and whereas 70 per cent wanted appointments with a doctor and eight per cent wanted to see a nurse, only two per cent asked to see a nurse practitioner. One of the key findings of the survey was that greater use should be made of nurse practitioners, who are qualified to diagnose ailments and prescribe medication.
The system of pre-booked appointments was deemed unsatisfactory by patients, as 53 per cent waited more than two weeks.
An attempt to tackle this was the introduction of the walk-in clinic, where patients could wait for an appointment. But 78 per cent of the 682 respondents who had used the clinic were dissatisfied with it due to the long waits involved – generally more than an hour. Forty one per cent had waited between two and three hours, and four per cent had left without being seen.
The survey, led by SPPF chairman Harold Massie, helped by his team, found improvements are needed to the organisation of the service in Lerwick Health Centre.
Mr Massie said: “We believe there could be more dedicated practice management and we have recommended that there is a lead GP . . .We would like to see a customer care strategy for the health centre which puts continuity of care at the heart of the service.”
Initial discussions at a previous health board meeting raised the possibility of patients being looked after by a “small team”, rather than seeing different health professionals on every visit.
It was also suggested that the boundaries of some country practices could be extended to take the pressure off Lerwick. The situation could further improve with the appointment of a consultant obstetrician, meaning that GPs would not be called away to hospital maternity unit.