Your Questions

About this page...

As most of you will know, we leave out survey or questionnaire forms at both surgeries which we collect regularly. There is space on the forms for the writer to add an e-mail address. However, many people don't complete this part.

Of course, this is entirely optional - but then they go on to raise a specific point about the practice or even ask quite detailed questions. Which we cannot answer, because we have no way of communicating with that patient!

So we have decided to set up a page to respond to those questions and comments - maintaining your anonymity, of course - so that the original questioner can get an answer (if they visit the web site!) and so that other patients may benefit from the information.

Appointments Online (New!)

I don't understand what's happening. I have been registered to make online appointments for ages but now I just get a message saying the service is 'temporarily unavailable' and to call the surgery.  The whole point about online appointments is that I shouldn't have to call the surgery!  What's going on?

You are quite right - the system has changed!

All practices in Somerset use the EMIS computer system. Some years ago, the EMIS online appointments system was considered inadequate and a number of surgeries used something called Front Desk instead. This was the system that patients signed up to.

Now, the EMIS system is considered much better than Front Desk and integrates with all the other systems, so a switch has been made to include the facility on Patient Access.

Unfortunately, when the computer update was done a few weeks ago, some patients may have been inadvertently 'deregistered' for Patient Access and will have to register again.

Many more will need to have their access to appointments (and maybe notes) re-enabled. This can be done quickly and easily by just calling the surgery.

The good thing is that all online services - appointments, notes, repeat prescriptions etc - are now available under one roof - Patient Access.  If you are not already signed up for this service, please see our new tutorial on the subject.

Long-term Appointments (Updated!)

Every 12 weeks I have to have an injection. In the past, after doing the injection, the nurse used to book my next appointment on her computer. Now they can’t book more than six weeks ahead. Why is this?
I have just attended an appointment with Yeovil Hospital and I have already been advised that my next appointment has been made for January 2020. Why can they do this whereas the surgery cannot?

This question has been raised with the practice staff before. The problem has been largely due to the difficulties of staff recruitment that have been covered in other reports.

Because of frequent staff turnover, it had been felt unwise to offer appointments too far into the future as one could never be sure who would be there to carry out the work!

The situation has improved a little recently.  Appointments can now be made with a GP up to six weeks in advance and with nurses, up to eight weeks in advance. We continue to monitor the situation and hope that it will soon be possible to book up to 12 weeks ahead.

Receptionists

Why does the receptionist ask me what I want to see my doctor about? She's not medically trained and I don't really want to discuss my personal details with all and sundry!

Whilst you are quite right that the majority of receptionists are not 'medically trained', they do receive special training in what is called 'first-line triage'.

One of the effects of the changes in the way medical services are offered these days is that there are now many more specialist staff who may well be more suitable to deal with your problem than your GP!  

These include nurse practitioners, practice pharmacists, healthcare assistants, health coaches and so on. In order to get you the best treatment in the fastest time, it's important that you be directed to the most appropriate person, and that's why the receptionist needs to know a bit about why you are calling. 

It's also important to realise that the receptionists are governed by exactly the same rules of patient confidentiality as the other clinical staff and your GP.

Making appointments

Why does it take South Petherton so long to answer the phone, and why can't Martock make appointments? There should be an appointment system where people under 60 can get an appointment.

There are a few topics here: the whole issue of the time taken to answer the phone is regularly raised and is under review by the PPG at this time. We have held off temporarily while the merger with Symphony take place, but we will be actively addressing this very shortly. 

Although the Appointments telephone number is a South Petherton one, the phone system is shared between the surgeries, and the same number handles appointments for them both.

As for a special system for people under 60, I think we'll leave that for discussion at our next AGM!

More on appointments

I find there is no point ringing at 8.30 am as it is constantly engaged. Ringing a bit later I can sometimes get answered, but then told I can't have an appointment that day, but a phone call from the Duty Doctor.

All the answers to this comment are in our specially prepared document about the Appointments system.  You can read this by clicking on this link. But to summarise: calling at 8.30 am is a bad idea! Lots of people believe that this is necessary to get an appointment, but it simply isn't true. You can call AT ANY TIME during the day for appointments, and avoiding the first hour or two means you are much more likely to get a faster response. 

If your situation is other than routine, you will be called back by the Duty Doctor.  If he or she considers that you need to be seen right away, then you will be seen THAT DAY, even if you call in the afternoon.  If the Duty Doctor considers your situation to be less urgent, then an appointment will be made within the next few days.  

Please remember that the best person to deal with your particular problem MAY NOT be a doctor; one of the nurse practitioners, a health coach or the practice pharmacist may be more appropriate. Also be aware that if you need an urgent appointment, it is quite probable that you will not be seen by 'your' GP, but by one of the other doctors.  

Appointments are probably the biggest bone of contention within the practice, but understanding how to make best use of the system can go a long way towards improving the experience.

On-line Repeat Prescriptions

I used to be able to order repeat medication online. A couple of years ago, I could no longer do this as it kept telling me that the e-mail address was already being used. On enquiring at Reception, I was told that only one person could be registered, so we both went back to manual ordering. We cannot be the only couple to share one computer?

No, you are quite right - there are many patients that share a single computer.  But this is not the problem; the problem is that you can't share an e-mail address. It's true that most internet service providers (ISPs) just give you a single e-mail address when you sign up with them, but you can always ask them for an additional one.  Then you can both register, under different addresses, to get your repeat prescriptions on-line.

If you really find it impossible to get another e-mail address from your ISP, you can always sign up to one from Hotmail or Gmail at no cost. If you are even having problems with that, get in touch with us and we will try to help you out.

If you want to get your prescriptions on-line without having to sign up to the service, you can also do it very easily by sending a normal e-mail to somccg.martockscripts@nhs.net. Just tell them what you need and they will sort it all out for you!

Being Seen On Time

It is now 11:30. My appointment was at 11:10. Nothing to say that things were running late. A man has just gone through. He'd been telling his friend his appointment was at 11:20. It would be good if the doctors actually called the patients in order of appointments.

We know how frustrating it can be to have to wait a long time to see your GP when you actually arrived on time!

Unfortunately, a GP's job is not always a simple one. He or she may receive an urgent phone call that has to be dealt with there and then. The previous patient may have had a sudden turn for the worse (it happens more often than you might think) which has delayed the GP. You will have seen the notice that says "If you have been waiting more than 20 minutes, please tell the Receptionist". She should be able to give you an explanation as to why you have been kept waiting.

As for your second point, be assured that the GPs do, indeed, see patients in order of appointment - subject to the sudden emergencies referred to above! But remember, other patients may be seeing a nurse, or the practice pharmacist, or a different GP, who may well be running on time. This is why someone with a later appointment may be seen before you, if your GP has been delayed.

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