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Whiteacres Medical Centre

Whiteacres Medical Centre

New Appointments System

We wanted to update you regarding changes to our appointment system and how we hope to rise to the challenge of extremely high demand in a “living with COVID” world.

The challenge
As you know, when the pandemic first struck we had to change the way we operated overnight. We were directed by the Government to avoid face to face contact wherever possible and to triage everything over the phone.Since then, we have been trying to modify our appointment system as often as possible to maintain and improve your access to us when you need us as well as managing the COVID vaccination programme.The “stay at home” message from the government had the undesired effect that very many people did not come forward to report symptoms of concern for many months during the height of the pandemic. We are now dealing with the legacy that this left us. The demand on our appointments has never been higher and we are doing our best to meet that demand as well as continuing the COVID vaccine roll out and restoring all of the chronic disease management checks and routine work of the NHS. Whiteacres delivered over 20,000COVID vaccinations in the last 15 months and we are just about to embark on theSpring COVID Booster campaign as well.We have expanded our clinical team as much as possible; we have taken on an extra doctor and also an Advanced Clinical Practitioner. We are providing more appointments than ever before yet we know that for some of you, you feel we could be doing more and would prefer us to revert to our pre-COVID appointment system.

Why can’t I be seen face to face?
The simple answer is that you can, but in order to manage the sheer number of patients asking for our help, we are continuing to triage everything initially over the telephone. We want to help you and we know that this does not suit all of you but we wanted to explain to you that this system most definitely has some benefits for you. These benefits are as follows:

  • Increased capacity to consult with patients – by triaging patients it allows us to offer many more people the opportunity to get our help on a day to day basis. It would simply not be possible to see every patient who requests an appointment face to face.

  • Increased flexibility of timings – if we or you feel that you should be seen after an initial telephone call, we can work around you as much as possible to provide a face to face appointment time that suits you. This would not be possible in a purely timed face to face appointment system like we used to have – you would be offered what slots were available.

  • Tailoring the length of appointment to the complexity of the problem
    – lots of patient problems are very straightforward and very quick to deal with. A standard 10 minute appointment for some problems is excessive. Many of our patients however have much more complex needs including complex mental health, chronic disease, cancer and palliative care needs. The system of a 10 minute face to face appointment for everyone does not take account of these needs. By triaging over the phone, we can deal with your problem quickly and efficiently if it is straight forward, or spend the time that it takes for a more complex problem without this impacting on a waiting room full of patients.

What is the current system for making an appointment?

  • We offer “book in advance” and “book on the day”appointments. All appointments with a doctor or Advanced Clinical Practitioner currently are a telephone appointment in the first instance. However  if either you or we feel you should/would prefer to be seen, the clinician will arrange that directly with you and attempt to find a mutually convenient time.

  • All “book in advance” and many “book on the day”appointments are available online using the patient access app or NHS app.

    • The “book in advance” appointments become available every day at 9AM for the following week 1 week in advance.

    • The book on the day appointments are available online at 08.30 every morning Monday-Friday. Every day of the week we offer somewhere between 100-160 routine appointments with Clinicians (Doctors orAdvanced Clinical Practitioner).

  • If you cannot use patient access or the NHS app, or there are no appointments available to suit you, please ring the surgery. We know the phone lines get busy and so in the mornings we have 8 members of staff answering calls for the first hour of the day so even if there are lots of people in front of you, we will answer your call as soon as possible. We regularly monitor call volumes in and try to match the number of appointments available to the expected demand on any day.

  • If we run out of “book on the day” appointments, we will still consult with you if you feel it is an urgent problem that cannot wait until the following day. All such requests will be discussed with the duty doctor before booking patients in.

  • All requests for a home visit will also need an initial telephone consultation to triage it. This is because often a problem can be dealt with safely and effectively over the phone. It also allows us to match the clinician to the problem and to be flexible with timings of visits where needed.

We review our appointment systems very regularly and are always trying to make things as easy for you as possible within the constraints that we have from a staffing point of view. Please remember that as clinicians, we also become unwell sometimes and we have been hard hit recently withCOVID-related sickness absence impacting on the availability of appointments.We ask for your co-operation in helping us to navigate this most challenging time as we try to address the massive backlog of routine care that has amassed over the course of the pandemic alongside continuing the vaccine programme which has helped restore our current liberties. We ask for your patience and understanding with our team members who really are just trying to help you wherever possible.