Access to General Practice – June 2023

Heaton Medical Centre, like all General Practice surgeries, has faced unprecedented demand for appointments and services in recent years. We have been successful in expanding our services greatly, in order to try to meet this demand. We now offer a range of different appointments to meet the diverse needs of our patients. We offer amongst the highest numbers of both telephone and face-to-face appointments in GP surgeries in Bolton and have always maintained our position of excellence in this important area. In March 2019, we were able to offer 73 appointments per 1000 patients per week. In March 2021, we managed to increase this to 80 appointments per 1000 patients per week. By March 2023, we have further increased this to 90 appointments per 1000 patients per week. This huge increase has allowed us to continue to meet the increasing demand on our appointments.

We are proud to have successfully recruited a wide range of staff ourselves at the surgery to assist with this. These include our paramedics Kerry Fletcher and Laura Savage, who have enabled us to meet the ever increasing acute and emergency demand that we face. We have also added an extra Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) to our expanding team. We are also a practice within the Chorley Roads Primary Care Network (PCN) who also provide extra clinical staff to our patients, for example the Musculoskeletal Practitioners, Mental Health Practitioners and further Paramedics and Pharmacists who work alongside our team at the surgery. We are a proud training practice with a wide range of training doctors alongside our GPs, which again, increase the range and volume of appointments that we are able to offer to all of our patients.

From 1st April 2023, GP surgeries have been working with a new contract set out by NHS England, which governs how GP surgeries should operate. In this there has been a significant change in that we should offer all patients an “assessment of need” when they contact the surgery. Our reception team have been trained in order to do this and will therefore need to ask details about the reason for contacting each time you do ring the surgery. The outcome from this might be to offer you an appointment with the most appropriate member of our team within the practice, or signposting you to more appropriate alternative services within the NHS.

We continue to work hard to review demand for appointments and evolve as a result, to try to offer our patients the best possible service. We are moving with the times and trying to implement more technology where appropriate to improve the patient journey. NHS England are very keen for surgeries to do this and we are embracing this change. You can book and change appointments using the NHS Mobile App and the Patient Access website and Mobile App. This is very easy and convenient. Our on-the-day appointments are released at 7am every day and can be booked using these apps and website too, rather than ringing the surgery for this. This decision, to expand the number of appointments available to be booked online, has taken on board feedback from you, our patients. Feedback suggested that ringing in the morning for an on-the-day appointment can sometimes feel frustrating, hence we have developed many other ways of accessing these appointments, while further developing our telephone lines and system. This should improve the patient journey. On-line consultations can also be accessed here. This is a modern way of accessing advice about your medical conditions and booking appointments for you at the surgery where applicable. You will always get a response within a maximum of 48 hours, and if an appointment with our clinicians is appropriate, this will be given. The waiting time for these appointments is usually shorter than if you were to call to book a routine pre-bookable appointment over the phone.