GPs in our district should be supported as they pilot new ways of working and trial longer opening hours.
That’s the conclusion of a Healthwatch Kirklees investigation into the problems many patients face in getting an appointment to see their GP.
The issue has been one of the most frequently raised by people speaking to the health charity and watchdog in the past six months.
The report’s author, Healthwatch advisor Clare Costello, said: “This has been the defining issue for us as an organisation since we started.
“Every group of patients we have sat down with, without exception, have raised issues about difficulties they have in getting appointments.
“What we understand, however, is that this is a national problem.”
The report highlights examples of new ideas being piloted in the area, including a ‘doctor first’ system which is being used by Greenway Medical Practice in Cleckheaton.
If patients phone the practice in the morning, they receive a call back from a GP – usually within two hours – who can give advice and book an appointment if one is still needed.
The charity plans to monitor progress made by all practices over the next six months.
Healthwatch director Rory Deighton said its aim was to support changes in healthcare that meant services were more focused on patients.
“In this example we think that the best way to achieve change is to support the CCGs, and GP practices as they try out different ways of delivering advice to patients,” he said.
“We will then hold them to account later in the year.”