A highlight of the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow was an inspiring talk by Javed Moore, an activist, journalist and motivational speaker who discussed how he worked with staff at his GP practice to improve accessibility for patients
Javed has cerebral palsy which limits his mobility and speech and found it difficult to access his local surgery. He requires the assistance of carers to help him attend medical appointments and he needs a programmable communication device in order to speak.
These factors present an obvious challenge for Javed. Attending or even arranging a GP appointment was far more difficult for him than many other patients. His reduced mobility made it difficult to attend his local practice at short notice and speaking through a communication device made arranging an appointment over the phone similarly challenging.
"Despite being registered at my local GP practice for 17 years, I had always been reluctant to reach out for help. I definitely faced a fair amount of obstacles as a disabled person, some people found it difficult to understand my communication device which made it hard to explain my situation, I was even faced with basic access difficulties to the building as a wheelchair user."
By opening up to the staff at Oakwood Medical Centre, in North London, Javed was able to overcome some of these obstacles - working with the team at the practice to find ways to accommodate his care.
Javed described his specific needs, and the unique challenges he faces - particularly in access - and how the practice might be able to work with him to come to a solution.
He worked closely with Michelle McVey, the operations manager for the Oakwood Medical Practice in North London.
"It was really refreshing to first make contact with Javed, and we immediately developed a great relationship. Once he had had explained his needs, we were able to coordinate with other members of the admin team, and the clinical team, to accommodate him," she said.
"We really value the importance of inclusivity at Oakwood and we've worked hard to create a friendly environment. We all value open dialogue, there are no barriers between the clinical and admin staff, we're focused on doing the best for our patients and it’s the open dialogue we have between all team members which allows us to do that."
Following initial discussions, it was agreed that Javed could have two to three standard appointment slots booked in at the end of the day. This meant that Javed could have a consultation that was not limited by the usual demands of a busy practice - Oakwood has around 80000 registered patients and is often back-to-back with appointments during the working day. This alternative approach allowed enough time for Dr Zahra Mownah, Javed's GP, to have thorough consultations with him.
"It was a real pleasure first meeting Javed, he was a very open and thoughtful young man. I was familiar with his condition from our patient records, but actually speaking to him directly on what his condition meant for access to appointments was eye opening. Javed has very unique needs and things which wouldn't impact a typical patient can be tremendous obstacles for him.
"It was refreshing as well to have a patient approach us to find a way we might be able to help them. It's not every day that patients do this, but it was of great benefit to the practice."
These measures had a pronounced effect on Javed's experience, giving him the access to primary care and all the benefits for his health and wellbeing that came with it. Javed was able to have discussions about the effectiveness of his medication and build a greater understanding of his personal health, helping him overcome the hesitancy around approaching his GP practice.
"My experience of primary care has been dramatically improved. I now feel comfortable arranging and attending my GP appointments.
"As a motivational speaker I will undoubtedly be drawing on my work with Oakwood for future talks, hopefully encouraging young people who may have accessibility issues similar to mine to reach out and collaborate with their local health services to improve their own experience."
Michelle McVey felt that Javed's initiative to improve his experience of primary care was a real example of how a personal approach can be of great benefit to patients.
"He's very much an inspiration. There's a lot we can all learn from Javed's initiative and the importance of having open dialogue with patients."