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Forging the missing link: Confidence in the NHS is low, yet confidence in the unknown is high

July 6, 2017

@rorytech_uk

 

The election campaigns are over for the time being but the real issues that they were fought on, particularly the NHS, rumble on in the background as politicians haggle for complex intra- and extra-party deals. A selection of facts from recent publications paint a stark picture of the current state of the NHS, especially in primary care.

 

Workforce

  • Two in every five GPs are planning to quit the NHS, a new survey suggests, amid warnings that “perilously” low morale among family doctors is fuelling an “enormous crisis” in frontline healthcare. [1]

  • A record 55 per cent of the public say they expect the NHS to deteriorate over the coming years [2]

GP Consultation Demand

  • There has also been a 15 per cent rise in the total number of GP consultations in the last five years, according to The King’s Fund – three times the overall growth rate of the GP workforce in that period. [3]

GP Supply

  • The number of GPs working full-time has fallen, according to figures published last month, despite Government proposals to recruit 5,000 more by 2020. There are now 34,372 GPs in the NHS, a decrease of 542 from last year. [4]

  • A BMA survey of 3,500 GPs in England found around a third of practices had vacancies for doctors they had been unable to fill for at least a year. [5]

The cumulative effect has worrying consequences for patient safety as patients are either put off attending the surgery or not able to see a GP due to lack of supply of doctors. This can mean that vital care is delayed and preventable symptoms worsen, or that the patient is forced to go to A&E to seek medical care, placing demand on the doctors and nurses already overloaded there. Keeping this in mind, below are graphs showing the percentage of people seen in 4 hours or less at A&E, and A&E demand in terms of attendances.

Accessing Healthcare

 

Projections from the current state of primary care and official A&E figures highlight that problems surrounding access to healthcare are only set to increase. So how do we address this issue? We believe that a platform that informs the public of what is available to them and shows real time availability data, such as queue lengths and waiting times, can go a long way to load balancing the system. Patients would base their decisions on ease of access and relevance of care provider and so they would not necessarily go to the same GP surgery or care provider every time for different problems.

 

A Rorytech survey showed that using an app was the second preference for booking a GP appointment, beating phoning the surgery but losing out to booking on the GP practice’s website by 4.6% of the vote. However, when asked how they actually booked their last GP appointment, the results were in stark contrast to those regarding preferences. Here the results show a huge swing towards phoning the surgery at the expense of booking on the practice website and using an app.

Now we know that service providers do have their own apps and that GP surgeries have websites where you can book online. So why the big difference between the results? The reasons are most likely to be a mixture between the absence of an easy-to-use digital option such as an app and a lack of knowledge of these alternatives. (These two points were raised by various people who elected to be contacted regarding their responses.) We see it that these two reasons are interconnected. Had the alternative means of accessing healthcare provision been easy to use then it would have caught on and more people would be using them. Thus, in essence, the issue still remains and the gulf widens between provision and service.

 

This presents an opportunity to not only improve the public’s experience of accessing healthcare, by giving them the resources to do so in the formats they find most effective to use, but also to do so with cutting edge technology, overstepping many of the legacy issues which beset the NHS currently. Rorytech’s platform is not only a one-stop shop for booking appointments, prescriptions and accessing medical records, it integrates with real time information about availability for primary care services.

 

The chart below shows how survey respondents reacted to having to wait for a GP appointment. Significantly, over 10% of respondents went to the out-of-hours service. This is already stretched to the limit in terms of demand and lack of supply of doctors. Our platform would seek to address this behaviour by showing availability of appointments at GP surgeries with any of the healthcare professionals, nearby walk in centres, other GP surgeries for groups which operate as a GP cluster or specialist clinics.

There are no quick fixes for all of the issues the NHS faces. However, would it not make sense to use an open platform to democratise access to primary care? Patients flock to A&E departments because they know where it is and that they will be seen, in spite of what is often a very long wait. This is often due to them not being able to get a GP appointment in a realistic time frame and not knowing where else to go. Do you know your nearest 5 walk in centres? How many people are waiting at each of them? Which one has the shortest average waiting time? Does it not make sense to provide an open platform to help the patients and in turn help the system instead of continuing down the road to nowhere?

 

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