Patients voice dissatisfaction with health centres

Lerwick Health Centre has a patient satisfaction rate of only 70 per cent and in some ways is performing less well than the Scottish average, according to a recent survey.

While patients are generally satisfied with the medical treatment they receive, they are distinctly unhappy with the access to medical professionals and more satisfied with the nurses than the doctors.

The NHS Better Together survey of patients’ experiences was issued to 611 people registered with the surgery. The 151 replies indicated that although many aspects of the health centre were in line with the Scottish average, patients have problems booking an appointment more than three days in advance. They also find it difficult to see the doctor of their choice.

On the positive side the GP surgery is clean, with a 99 per cent satisfaction rate, in keeping with the Scottish average. The surgery also scored 99 or 98 per cent for patients knowing enough about how and when to take their medicines, patients having enough time with the nurse, patients knowing enough about what their medicines are for and the nurse listening to patients.

However only 17 per cent were satisfied they were able to book a doctor’s appointment three or more working days in advance, 63 per cent lower than the Scottish average, and only 35 per cent could usually see their preferred doctor, 49 per cent below the Scottish average.

Only 61 per cent thought it was easy to get through on the phone (24 per cent below the Scottish average) and only 35 per cent (40 per cent less than the Scottish average) were satisfied with the overall arrangements for getting to see a doctor. Arrangements to see a nurse were better with 70 per cent satisfaction – only 14 per cent below the Scottish average.

Regarding patients’ experiences of doctors, although 92 per cent thought the doctor listened to them, this was three per cent below the Scottish average. Only 82 per cent thought the doctor had all the information to treat them, eight per cent below the Scottish average, and only 80 per cent had confidence in the doctor’s ability to do it, 10 per cent below the Scottish average.

Only 80 per cent rated the doctor as considerate and understanding and the same percentage thought they had enough time with the doctor – 12 per cent and 10 per cent respectively below the Scottish average. These figures are an improvement from last year, however.

Patients appeared to have more confidence in the nurses, with 95 per cent thinking the nurses were considerate and understanding, 94 per cent feeling the nurses had all the information to treat them and 99 per cent happy with the amount of time the nurses could spend with them.

Other points raised in the survey were the time waiting to be seen, rated as 84 per cent satisfaction, three per cent below the Scottish average, and surgery opening hours, which 68 per cent were happy with. However 15.5 per cent said it was difficult to get off work during opening hours.

Of the people who responded to the survey, 40 per cent were male and 60 per cent female with a spread of ages from 17 to over 65. The majority of them did not have any limiting illness or disability.

Primary care service manager Lisa Sutherland said that changes had been made since the survey was done last November. Ms Sutherland said: “We are disappointed the results weren’t better but we have instigated a lot of changes since then in response to requests from patients.”

There are now four options: pre-bookable appointments, in which patients can book to see a GP of their choice up to four weeks in advance, a twice-weekly walk-in clinic, an emergency clinic three times a week and phone advice.

Ms Sutherland said: “We have gone from having one system only to four ways of seeing [or speaking] to a GP.” Patient feedback is always welcome, she said, and recommended patients take a recently-developed leaflet, developed by the health centre, giving phone numbers and letting patients know who the staff are.

Ms Sutherland pointed out that the survey found that 95 per cent of patients, more than the Scottish average, could see or speak to a GP within two working days. However she said that the pre-bookable system had led to an increase in missed appointments, and asked that patients who no longer need an appointment to phone and let the health centre know. Yesterday, for example, there had been five “did not attends”, which wasted one hour 15 minutes.

At the Brae Medical Practice, where 161 patients responded to the survey, the overall care provided by the GP surgery was rated at 81 per cent, which was down on last year and 14 per cent below the Scottish average. However 94 per cent of those surveyed did consider that in general they were treated with dignity and respect, and 92 per cent that they were treated with kindness and understanding.

Ninety nine per cent of people surveyed thought the nurse listened to them, and almost as many, 97 per cent, thought the nurse had all the information needed to treat them and was considerate and understanding. They also felt they had enough time with the nurse and were confident in the nurse’s ability to treat them. All of these factors scored between 96 and 98 per cent, above the Scottish average.

However results for seeing the doctor were below the Scottish average and were all down on the results from the surgery last year. Only 77 per cent thought the doctor was considerate and understanding, and only 75 per cent felt they had enough time with him – both results were 15 per cent below the Scottish average. And only 74 per cent, 16 per cent below the Scottish average, had confidence in the doctor’s ability to treat them.

Although 98 per cent of people found it easy to get their medicines and 96 per cent knew what they were for, only 83 per cent knew enough about the side effects. This was in line with the Scottish average, however.

On the positive side the surgery was rated at 100 per cent for cleanliness and for patients being able to see their preferred doctor. However although patients could not always book three or more working days in advance 82 per cent were happy with the opening hours and only eight per cent found it difficult to get away from work to attend.

A response from the surgery said: “The period of the National Patient Satisfaction Survey represented a time of acute difficulty in recruitment for general practitioners at the Brae Medical Practice.

“Following this period, Brae Medical Practice successfully recruited two additional high calibre general practitioners. We hope this will significantly improve patient satisfaction.

“In addition, following work undertaken since March this year, Brae Medical Practice will be introducing a radical change to their appointment system resulting in longer appointment times with the GP and increased availability of pre-bookable appointments.

“This new appointment system has also been designed to help the practice cope with an anticipated significant strain when the full Total Laggan-Tormore project workforce arrives.

“At times this will equate to a 40 per cent increase in the population covered by the Brae Medical Practice. The constuction workers will be resident in the Laggan-Tormore accommodation facility and in other rental accommodation in the area.”

The surveys were commissioned by the Scottish government for Scotland’s patient experience programme Better Together, with a view to improving health services, and managed in partnership with Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS National Services Scotland.


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