GP Access

‘Why can’t I just book an appointment?’

We’ve had a number of questions to reception and GPs recently querying our current system for booking appointments with the GP. We hope that by the end of this article you will better understand the reasoning behind our current system.

Over a year ago St Clements made the decision to move to a ‘total triage’ system of booking appointments.

This means that all routine appointment requests (about 100 a day) are screened by a GP. Some of these things can be resolved with a quick call or text message. Some might be a request for a simple prescription. Some things can be managed by community services like the pharmacy or opticians. Some things can be managed by our excellent team of physiotherapists, pharmacists and nurses.

It also ensures that if you need seeing within a week you will be and that if your problem can wait then you will be given an appointment in the future.

Our aim is to provide over 90% of appointments within 2 weeks of your request.

The triaging doctor looks through all requests and decides how urgent the problem is or if it can be managed by another service. If they do need a GP appointment then the person may need a blood test first or to complete a questionnaire about their symptoms. This ensures that when you do see a GP it’s the most efficient use of both your time and the GP’s time.

What if it’s more urgent?

If you contact us to request an urgent appointment we will aim to call you back the same day or arrange a same day appointment. Sometimes the triaging GP may not feel that your problem is urgent for that day – for example it may be an ongoing problem and best dealt with by your usual GP, the person who knows you best. In which case this will be organised.

When the surgery reaches full capacity

Our doctors monitor the number of calls, online requests and emails coming in to the surgery throughout the day until the point at which the service is at full capacity for that day. At this point no further requests will be added to that day’s routine or urgent list.

This is so that we can safely manage those people who are already on the list.

We must balance the demand coming in with the number of doctors and nurses on duty and the number of on-the-day urgent appointments available. We try extremely hard to keep the list open as long as possible but there is a tipping point where the levels of demand become unsafe for the doctors and nurses to manage. On a normal day we will speak to or see about 100-150 people on the urgent list – depending on staffing levels. However we may have far more requests than that through the day and it would be impossible to safely manage all of them

On a Monday and Tuesday we may reach full capacity earlier as the levels of demand are just so high.

The page for online requests goes live from 7.30am and the phonelines from 8.30.

After the list reaches full capacity we will still add  urgent requests for patients under the age of 5 or over the age of 85 and those with end of life care needs as these are our most clinically vulnerable patients. Everyone else will be directed to 111 to discuss your symptoms further if you feel you need to speak to someone the same day.

The NHS and GPs have never been under such extraordinary levels of demand and pressure. We have had to make some very hard decisions in order to ensure good, safe patient care for those we do see and to protect our staff. We understand that this is hard to hear when you are worried about your own health or that of a loved one. We appreciate your understanding and help with these difficult moments.

How can I help?

For the system to run smoothly there are a few things you, as a patient of St Clements Surgery, can do to help everyone.

  1. If you contact us for an urgent appointment please ensure that you are available that day for a call or face to face appointment. If you are not in the local area or are not able to accept an on the day appointment please contact us on a day that you are available.
  2. Please do give our reception team as much detail as you can when they ask for information. It can feel odd disclosing personal details to a non-medical person but our receptionists are trained in confidentiality and are very used to hearing about all sorts of concerns. They are following their training and instruction from the GP when they ask you for more information. This allows the GP to ensure that you get the right help at the right time.
  3. Consider if you really need to call the GP surgery. Checking the NHS website (or the Healthier Together website for children) in the first instance and thinking about whether a GP appointment is really necessary. Below is a list of self help links.
  4. If you are able please try to use the website and online service rather than calling in to the surgery. Our reception team try as hard as they can to answer calls quickly but there are often long waits on the phone- particularly on a Monday and Tuesday morning. If your call can wait until later in the week please consider leaving those peak times for the people who are unwell or elderly and less tech-savvy than you.
  5. If you no longer need or cannot make your appointment please cancel it with as much notice as possible, this allows us to release the appointment to someone else.

Useful links:

To submit an online request for an urgent or routine appointment to the surgery-

The practice website for all the details of services to which you can self-refer

Information about the new Pharmacy First scheme-