Treating Access: a toolkit for GP practices to improve their patients' access to primary care

Treating Access

A toolkit that improves access to appointments, treatments and information

For patients, good access to their general practice is important. A toolkit has been developed by RCGP Scotland, the Scottish Government and other partners to help practices improve access to appointments, treatments and information.

Many practices in Scotland provide an excellent level of access for patients, however, some want help to improve.  As a result the Scottish Government tasked RCGP Scotland with the creation of guidance and support.

The toolkit makes a range of innovative suggestions about how GP practices can improve access, including setting up patient groups, increasing use of Healthcare Assistants and Nurse Practitioners and increasing use of the internet for ordering prescriptions and booking appointments. It also recommends increasing capacity at busy times, moving clinics away from periods of peak demand and using telephone consultation where appropriate.

The access toolkit was developed by a working group made up of representatives from RCGP Scotland, the Scottish Government, Practice Nurse Network, NHS boards and patients after wide consultation. It  follows a medical model which will be very familiar to practices.  It describes the symptoms that exist when access is a problem, such as how easy it is to get through on the phone and how long a patient has to wait to see a GP. After the problem has been diagnosed, the toolkit provides advice on how to treat the problems where they exist.   

Dr Ken McLean, who led the working group which developed the access toolkit said:

“It pulls together in one place a range of materials designed to bring about practical improvement for practices trying to get their access arrangements right.  The tips on how to improve access are pertinent to a wide range of practices, from those in deprived inner-city areas to those working remotely in the Highlands. We want practice teams to be able to manage demand effectively so that patients have access to care and treatment in line with their medical needs.”

The toolkit was launched on the 15 November 2010 at Crescent Medical Practice in Glasgow by the former Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. She said:

“Excellent access to general practice is a key ingredient of high quality healthcare. The more effectively access is managed, the better the outcome and the impact on the patient’s experience of care. I am very grateful to RCGP Scotland for leading on this work, which forms a key part of our strategy Delivering Quality in Primary Care, to improve the quality of care in community settings.”

Chair of RCGP Scotland Dr. John Gillies said:

“Access arrangements are an important issue for patients and practice teams and we need to strive to get it right. This toolkit helps practice teams meet current demands and enables them to refine their appointment systems in future to respond to the changing needs of our patients.”

Treating Access resources

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