I am acutely aware of continued problems my constituents are experiencing with GP appointments.
I recently had a meeting with the Mid Essex Clinical Commissions Group (CCG) to discuss these issues in full and to understand what action they are taking to improve the situation. The CCG are aware of the strength feeling felt by my constituents and I have made multiple representations to them about the issues many residents are facing across the constituency.
There are two main elements to the current state with GP appointments, the first is contacting and booking appointments, the second is the care received once an appointment has been arranged. On the whole, care received during an appointment is good, and the main problem has been with the booking systems, with residents facing long waits to get through to someone to book an appointment. So, a lot of focus has been placed on finding a solution.
A preeminent way to improve the booking system is better telephone infrastructure so that it can handle the increased demand. The Secretary of State for Health and Social care, Sajid David, has initiated a national push to improve telephone systems, with specialist equipment being given to practices and it has been emphasised that local GPs should be benefitting from this soon. Although it is not a silver bullet, I have been assured that this will go a long way towards improving the problems. I will be following roll out closely and working with the CCG to ensure these new systems are installed as a matter of urgency.
On the care side of this, although on the whole the CCG have indicated that care is good, I am aware of concerns that many of my constituent have with regard to face-to-face appointments. It has been outlined to me that because of pressures created by the pandemic, it will be hard to replicate the kind of service that patients received before the pandemic, with demand outpacing current supply. This is not just confined to Essex but rather a broader national picture. However, I have been assured by the CCG that anyone who urgently needs face-to-face appointments will get one. Therefore, with implementation of specialist telephone infrastructure which will more easily allow for the triaging of patients, should contribute to better overall care for my constituents.
It is also the case that some practices are performing better than others, so it is important to ascertain why this is the case, and the CCG are investigating. This will allow us to see what lessons can be learnt and which polices can be adopted by other practices to make them perform better and give improved care for my constituents. I again will be working closely with the CCG on this. In particular, I am aware of concerns of those that are registered patients at Blackwater Medical Centre and will be meeting the new practice manager to discuss how we can improve the situation.