Scheme frees up doctors time

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Patients at Southgate Surgery get more chance of seeing a doctor the same day they ring for an appointment thanks to a pioneering scheme.

The surgery on Brighton Road is the first practice in Crawley where its doctors take patients appointment calls, and in some cases are able to help over the phone, which frees up time.

Cllr Chris Cheshire (Lab, Bewbush), who is chair of the Southgate Patients Forum, said it also helps to free up A&E and walk-in centres.

She said: “When you make an appointment you have the option to speak to your doctor and we think it is a great because sometimes people are able to sort out their problem over the phone with the doctor. This frees up appointments at the surgery for people who really need to come in and means there is more possibility of people getting an appointment the same day they ring. The other great thing is, it helps to ease the strain on A&E and walk in centres. As far as I know we are the only surgery that does this in Crawley, and I think we are being used as an example to other practices.”

The forum has also been working with the surgery to bring in a local 01293 number. Last month the Observer reported how the surgery apologised to a patient after he was left on hold for 55 minutes on an 0844 number which he said charged more than the local rate. Cllr Cheshire said the forum had been working with the surgery to change the phone systems and patients now have the choice to ring an 0844 number which is charged at the local rate depending on the patients phone package, or to ring an 01293 number. Flyers have been put around the surgery to explain how the two numbers work. They also have a call back service. Cllr Cheshire said the forum and surgery were disappointed to learn of the patient’s incident as they had strived to sort out the problem and audit the phones to check how long people were waiting.

Cllr Cheshire said forums were an important tool for surgeries to help listen to their patients. She said four others in Crawley had forums, and three more are in the process of setting groups up. She added: “I think forums are the way forward. We have been operating for three years and we have done quite a lot in that time. If we think something could be evolved the surgery comes to us for our thoughts and we work together.”