With one in 12 patients nationally failing to turn up for their appointment at their GP surgery, the Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has turned to text messaging technology to reduce the problem of ‘Did not attends’.
Patients are now being asked to give their mobile telephone numbers to their surgeries next time they visit, making it possible for GPs to communicate with patients via text.
The new system is being described by the Medway CCG as a ‘win-win for everyone’ as it improves access to treatment for GP patients, takes pressure off GP receptionists and could reduce people making unnecessary visits to Accident & Emergency, saving precious health resources locally.
In its drive to improve access for patient access to GPs, Medway CCG is rolling out a new IT system to the 51 GP surgeries across the area, to help improve patient experience by using digital technology.
The scale of the Did Not Attends problem is significant in Medway, with one of the larger GP surgeries reporting its practice has an average of 250 appointments missed each month – equivalent to the number of appointments one GP has available a week.
Patients at Medway surgeries using the system can now be sent a reminder and if they are unable to attend they can reply ‘CANCEL’ via text. It is then possible for the GP to offer the appointment to another patient, ensuring they are able to see as many people as possible during a surgery.
Nationally, it is estimated 1 in 10 people who can’t get a GP appointment on the day make their way to Accident & Emergency for treatment adding to the pressures on the NHS, rather than wait, or visit their pharmacy or walk-in centre.
Caroline Selkirk, Chief Accountable Officer for Medway CCG, said: “The inability of patients to get to their GP is often a criticism of the system, and often given as a reason why people present themselves at A&E, which puts further pressure on our colleagues in Medway Maritime Hospital.
“Everybody has a role to play in ensuring the NHS works as well as possible, and that includes patients.
“If patients provide their mobile numbers to their GP practice they can now be reminded of appointments and have no excuse to miss one which could have been used by somebody else who needs it.”
The system can also invite ‘at risk’ patients for preventative tests, such as cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as pregnant women, the elderly and those living with long-term health conditions for regularly check-ups.
It has now been installed in more than 75 per cent of Medway GP practices, with the rest anticipated to follow in the next few months.
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Notes to Editors
- Medway CCG is responsible for planning and buying local NHS services, for the patient population of 295,223 across Medway.
- Medway CCG’s main role is to plan and buy health services across the Medway towns. It works closely with patient groups, local public health, social care and voluntary sector partners to make sure the right services are available at the right time.
- The CCG is one of 211 in the country, the Medway CCG is made up of GPs, other healthcare professionals and experienced commissioners dedicated to making Medway a healthier place to live.
- It is committed to developing a strong clinically-led organisation that puts the needs of Medway residents at the heart of its decisions.
- Medway Clinical Commissioning Group has a governing body made up of local GPs, a registered nurse and several lay members, all working with a network of health professionals across the area.