After initially being sympathetic towards towards the NHS at the start of the Covid pandemic, public attitudes have changed, particularly towards GP surgeries.
Reading people who answered an online survey we ran in March and April of 2021, expressed frustration that it was getter more difficult to get through to their local doctor's surgery even though restrictions on wider society were easing.
The strength of people's responses prompted us to lobby locally for changes and to share stories with our national body. People had experienced medication and care delays and in some cases given up trying to contact their doctor altogether.
By speaking up, you persuaded local clinicians to act and collectively influenced a national change of direction.
What’s changed since our survey
- A large, local surgery put on more staff at peak times to reduce long phone queues
- Local NHS officials asked surgeries with the worst access problems to take action
- Surgeries began to put more up-to-date information on their websites
- Surgery answerphone messages were shortened and options made clearer
- Surgeries started to again offer a choice of phone or face-to-face appointments
- A scrutiny committee of local councillors started a hearing on the issue
- The government published an improvement plan for GP access in late 2021 after evidence from local Healthwatch across England and the Care Quality Commission.
The changes to GP working practices were ordered nationally at the start of the pandemic but the way they communicated these to patients has been under local control. There is still some way to go to get GP access right for local people but we will continue to give a collective voice to local people on one of their most used parts of the health service.