We've helped to improve communication between GP surgeries and care homes
GP services are provided differently for care home residents, compared to the rest of the population. Residents, who may well be frail and have limited mobility, are not asked to go out to see a doctor. Instead the doctor comes to them. A GP visits each home once or twice a week (this varies from home to home, depending on the practice providing the service). Care home staff can call the GP out for emergencies as well, should the need arise.
Just over a year ago Islington Clinical Commissioning Group asked Healthwatch to go into care homes and extra care sheltered housing to find out what people thought of their GP services. Across the 11 homes we visited we spoke to:
- 43 residents
- 13 next of kin
- 48 members of staff
- 10 managers
In general, respondents felt that the service was good. Residents felt listened to and respected. However, we learned that improvements were needed in communication between the homes and the GP practices.
- Not many homes had been given a direct number for contacting their GP
Homes reported needing regular contact with GPs outside of their scheduled visits. Having to phone the busy main number for the practice was making communication difficult.
'Whilst most managers felt that the GP practice was responsive, it seemed a common issue was making contact with the practice in the first place. Managers referred to long waiting times on the phone of up to 30 minutes. Two managers spoke about having a direct line to their allocated GP and how this had improved the GP’s responsiveness. In one home the direct line had been taken away and this had had a negative effect on the service.'
(Quote from GP services for Islington residents in residential care, Healthwatch Islington 2016)
- Family and next of kin had only a limited awareness of the GP service
What happened as a result of our work?
Having read our report, Islington Clinical Commissioning Group decided to review the service. It's now been redesigned. Healthwatch Islington is particularly pleased to see the following elements appear in the new service specification:
- A direct telephone number and email is now to be included as a requirement within the operational agreement between the GP provider and the care home.
- Posters about the service are to be placed in the reception area of each home, and in other communal areas. These posters will include a picture of the lead GP, along with a contact email address and telephone number.