Earlier this week, I saw a story on social media which although disappointing is by no means something new when you happen to work in the public healthcare sector otherwise known as the NHS...the title read "15% increase in patients waiting a month for a GP appointment" and was based in the findings of a recent BMA report. The said report found that 2.23 million patients waited more than 28 days to get a GP appointment this year which was up 15% compared to last year. According to the BMA, these waits were partly due to the continuing shortages in the number of GP's working. As a Practice Manager, I know this to be true but there are certainly other factors contributing to this dismal performance by the public health service especially accentuated in the Winter period. The (still) poor implementation and use of technology to improve the efficiency of services available to patients, uncertainty around indemnities, poor strategic planning (at both local and nationwide level) prior to the Winter season, the lack of adequate funding to meet the considerable increase in patient population (and demand) in some areas of the country and patient's lack of awareness of which services to use for a headache or a toothache, a repeat prescription request or travel vaccines query (to quote some examples of GP visits which are quite common and contribute to the sometimes excessive and unnecessary demand for face to face consultations).
The same report indicated that "there is still a lack of data on primary care pressures. Data collected all year round and Winter specific data in secondary care is not replicated in primary care." After reading this one question immediately pops here which takes us back to deficient use of technology in the NHS...in this day and age where tons of data are collected from everywhere every second of the day, how to explain that there isn't enough data being collected for something which happens every single year?! Maybe because nobody cares to collect the data (by smarter and more efficient means other than asking primary care i.e. Practice Managers to fill in more reports and submissions to provide NHS England with data which should instead be collected automatically via the clinical systems in use and then compiled and analysed by the so called experts and decision makers in the governing bodies nationwide. Ironically enough and parallel to this story, saw another one which read: "Automation could free up 31% of GP time, says Hancock report" ...Voila! Touche! No more cold winters and long waiting times for a GP appointment, a solution has been found!
According to this report "31% of GP time – equivalent to £962m – could potentially be freed by automation due to increased productivity. Additionally, it illustrated 53% of time spent on GP support (including patient care and nonclinical) could be freed up due to automation, equating to a value of £880m." ...and to think that I spent all those hours on mandatory data submissions to CCG's and NHSE when the solution lied in automation!
Joking aside, these news and reports are nevertheless positive and very encouraging. I firmly believe that technology used in a smart way by clinical professionals will be the answer in the future to the current issues faced by NHS professionals and patients alike...but first we need to start with the basics in IT. This would include fast and reliable internet, clinical software that did not repeatedly crash or run very slowly and better integration of different IT systems to cut duplicate data entry (and reduce the unnecessary workload for Practice Managers and clinical staff in general releasing more time to patient care and improving the efficiency of services).
Did you know...
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Jorge Goncalves (NHS Practice Manager)