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Towards the end of 2019 we found the workload that was coming in with requests for clinicians was overwhelming. As patients you liked the ability to book face to face appointments with a clinician in the future but were unhappy with the delay. The system was broken and after looking at a number of options we chose to move to askmyGP which we did in March of 2020.
The pandemic changed the nature of General Practice probably for ever. Initially it reduced demand as patients stayed away from GP surgeries and hospitals, but eventually patient demand built up and slowly but surely our ability to deal with all requests on the same day overwhelmed the system. The only option was to turn off the askmyGP system and ask patients if your request was urgent for the same day. If not you were asked to try again later in the week. As time went on the time that askmyGP was turned off moved from 4pm to 12 noon and then whenever capacity was reached. On very busy days that can now be 9am.
For you and for us this is not now a satisfactory system. You are limited in the time you can contact the Practice and when the system is turned off you have to either wait for it to reopen in the evening or ring the Practice to put your request in. For patients who do not use the internet when they ring in they are met with a message saying we have reached capacity for the day and therefore may choose not to contact us at all. It is stressful for the reception team as they do not have appointments to offer patients and for clinicians it is a real worry not knowing just how many patient contacts they will have in a day and therefore for some days have extended very late into the evening.
We have a system that is now not working very well for anyone and we intend to fix it with some simple changes from the start of January onwards.
When you now access askmyGP rather than having an empty text box to type your request in to you will be met with a few simple options which you can see below.
Requests where you select “My request is acute and needs to be assessed by a clinician within the next 24 hours” will be assessed initially by one of the “acute team” and if this request is not clinically urgent you may receive a response from a clinician to say that this is being dealt with as a routine request. If it is appropriate for acute care it will be sent on to a clinician within the Practice which could be a doctor, nurse practitioner, first contact physio or paramedic. You will not be able to select a specific clinician through this route and will be dealt with as now either by message, phone call or face to face appointment. It may be that the acute part of your request is dealt with on the day and you will be directed to put in a routine request for any other queries you have.
Patients who select “My request is routine, I am happy to wait 1-3 working days” will be offered an appropriate appointment. The majority of these will be face to face as these allow clinicians a better opportunity to consult on more complex or ongoing issues. The appointments are bookable by the patient anything from same day to several days in the future with their clinician of choice. They will also be able to book a telephone appointment in some cases. For patients that we are able to, we will send an invite link (just like with flu) that will allow you to select a range of dates and times. The Reception team will assist those who are unable to book this way.
Using the other forms that are available such as sick note request or our suspected UTI form will allow your request to be dealt with in the most efficient manner so please use these options where appropriate.
The system may initially indicate that it is turned off during the hours that askmyGP is available. This is a software development issue, please ignore this, if you are able to see the above icons you can use the system. If the icons are not available then the system is turned off in which case please contact 111 or 999 if your request is an emergency.
We will be turning askmyGP on at 6:30pm on a Sunday and leaving it turned on until 6:30pm on a Friday evening. We can do this because with your help we have separated what is really acute for today from patient requests where they are happy or able to wait for. This system relies on the support of you (our patients) to select the right route for the care that you need, without that we risk overwhelming our system again.
When we introduced askmyGP we moved quickly into the Pandemic and we were unable to follow our usual route of reviewing changes and tweaking the system to reflect this review. With this change we will monitor, review and adjust early in the process to ensure we have a system that works as well as possible for you, clinicians and the Practice. Whilst the perfect system is not out there that doesn’t stop us striving to do the very best we can with the resources we have. We are realistic and know that whatever system we have we probably don’t have the resources available to give all patients exactly what they want but by working together and ensuring that the whole Practice team have a safe workload we believe that together we will be able to make the best system we can and provide patients with the care and support they need.
If you have any feedback on these system changes please feel free to let us know at email@example.com
The entire patient care team at the Practice thank you in advance for your support.