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Riverbank Medical Centre

Dodsley Lane, Midhurst, W Sussex, GU29 9AW

Tel:01730 812121      Fax:01730 811400       e: cwsccg.riverbankmc@nhs.net

On 10 March 2015 we introduced a new appointment system to provide a much more responsive and better quality service to our patients.


Instead of phoning the Practice or coming down to the surgery and having a receptionist book a GP appointment for you, our doctors will speak with the patient first on the telephone and then book an appointment according to the clinical need.


When your doctor assesses that you need to be seen quickly they can schedule you an appointment the same day or, if it is a routine matter that can wait a few days, they will give you an appointment within that timeframe.  Alternatively, there will be times when they can help you without the need for you to be seen in person, which will save you the trouble of coming down to the surgery.




How this system will help you, the patient


In the past you have phoned the practice and had to wait anything between three hours and two weeks before speaking to or seeing your doctor of choice.


Now we intend to put you in direct contact with your doctor.  Usually this will be within two hours of you making your call, if your GP is working that day.  


This will achieve faster and more effective patient outcomes.  It will avoid the need for everyone to telephone the surgery at 0830 or indeed to travel down to the surgery to ‘beat the phone system’.


This will be a much less frustrating experience for everyone; it is fair and designed to meet clinical needs.




How does it work for you, the patient?


From the patient’s point of view it is really simple:


  • Phone your GP Surgery (No need to rush you do not have to ring at 0830).

  • There is no advantage in coming to the surgery; you will be given a telephone call slot alongside all the others who have phoned in.

  • Give your telephone contact details to the receptionist and arrange a convenient timeframe to be called back by your GP.

  • You will be asked some simple questions to help determine if it is an ‘urgent matter’ or if it is a ‘routine’ matter. This will really help your Doctor prioritise the calls.

  • Speak directly to your doctor, usually within two hours of calling the surgery, if they are working that day.


If your usual doctor isn’t in the building that day, you will be given the option of waiting until they are next available or speaking with another GP if it is urgent.


We believe that the ‘Usual GP’ approach is absolutely important for continuity of care and saves patients having to give their history again to someone else.  




Benefits for Patients


Under this system:


You do not have to be first through on the phone to secure an appointment – no need to try at 0830 as there is no special advantage in trying to ring at this time.  For the most part try to ring sometime between 0830 and 1000.  You can, of course, call at any time that we are open too.  Also, coming to the surgery to ‘beat the phone system’ will be of no advantage as you will just be given a telephone slot for the GP to call you back, along with everyone else who calls that day.  We believe this is fair and prioritises clinical need.


  • You will have direct contact with your doctor much sooner.

  • You can be moved much more quickly and effectively along the care pathway, due to early identification of your clinical needs.

  • You will be able to see the doctor sooner and according to your clinical need.

  • You will be confident that our system is fair to all patients on the basis of clinical need, not just those who ‘get in first’.

  • You will not have to deal with a complex system – this system is simple.




Benefits for Doctors


For doctors this represents:


  • Improved patient communication and quality of medical care

  • Improved patient satisfaction.

  • More efficient use of everyone’s time and NHS resources




How to get the best from the system


The new system works differently from a traditional appointments system, so it helps to think differently about using the system. The following tips will help you get the best out of it.


  • If you don’t need to be seen quickly, think about phoning the surgery on a day when it is more convenient to receive a call back from your GP.  You will be given options about who you wish to speak to and whether a morning or afternoon call back is more convenient.

  • If you visit the surgery in person to book an appointment for yourself or someone else, the receptionist cannot book you an appointment, but a telephone call will be booked for you, or the patient you are booking for.

  • The system is not about preventing you from seeing the doctor.  It is about putting patients directly in touch with their doctor faster, in order to deal with their clinical needs in the most effective way and according to clinical priority.

  • The system is about dealing with your healthcare needs more quickly & effectively and delivering a higher standard of patient care.  In the past the patients who were first through on the phone, or turned up at the surgery, were the ones to get the earliest appointments, regardless of whether they were the ones that needed them the most.  The new system ensures that GPs can see urgent patients more quickly.  GPs can also speed up the care pathway for any patient requiring tests prior to a face to face appointment, for those requiring review of medication or a pre-existing condition or for those with a straightforward diagnosis for which a prescription can be raised following a telephone consultation.




Why change?


Appointment systems have been influenced by government policy over the last ten years and despite our best efforts to come up with ways to avoid it, we have ended up with a system where patients feel they have to ring at 0830 to secure an appointment – a real lottery for everyone.  Often patients are angry that the appointments are all gone within a couple of minutes of 0830 and having to call into the surgery at exactly 0830 is really not convenient for many people.



Over time, in response to patient feedback, we have tried many ways to improve the appointment system but these changes have only helped things to a point. There was still:


  • The 0830 Telephone lottery.

  • Appointments slots were filled by the winners of the lottery and those who claimed it was ‘urgent for today’ when in many cases it was not.

  • Many of the appointments were unnecessary and could have been dealt with in a more effective way.

  • Many patients were seeing the wrong doctor at the wrong time.

  • Many of the appointments could have been dealt with over the telephone to save the patient making the trip to the surgery.  

  • Patients with real clinical need had to compete with all of the above and sometimes lost out – that was unfair.

  • The receptionist was unfairly seen as the barrier to the patient seeing the GP.



We hope that the new system will stop these things and make it both fairer and safer for all our patients and ensure that they are treated in a timely manner according to their clinical need.  Any new system takes a while to bed in, so we ask that you are patient with us during this period of change.  We will be reviewing the new system on a regular basis.