How taking part in the Links Programme has changed our practice in the past year
Last year we were asked to think of ways to improve both the patients’ experience of the surgery and the general well being of the staff, who at the time were feeling the pressure of working in a Deep End Practice.
The following areas were identified in which we could benefit everyone, making it easier for patients to access various services, improving the wellbeing of the staff and helping them develop as a team
- Online Prescriptions
- Online Appointment System
- 24/7 Prescription telephone
- Automatic Check In and waiting room
- Website (renewed)
- Practice newsletter
- Yoga and Swimming
- Half day training as a Practice each month
- Additional member of staff for the reception team.
We found patients were having difficulties in ordering prescriptions within the 10am to 4pm allotted time frame. The problems were looked at and we felt offering both online ordering and a telephone line for leaving prescription requests 24 hours a day 7 days a week would greatly benefit all patients.
Investigations as to the right telephone line and questions to IT support took place. Once the telephone line was up and running a member of staff recorded a welcome and instruction message and we went live. This has made a vast difference both to patients and staff. Reception staff can allocate set times during the day to action calls, before they would be constantly answering the phone and not being able to do anything else for the time the line was open for prescriptions. Patients benefit because they can order when they want to and not be restricted by time. It is now working very well, with only a few problems at the start when some people were not waiting till the beep to leave a message and just giving items they want and no name, these are now very few. We have improved the welcome message to ask for patients INR when ordering warfarin. This is still being monitored, but initial feedback from most patients is good.
Online prescriptions allow patients to order online whenever they wish, making it much easier and less restrictive. This has started slowly as passwords were given out only when requested from patients. However at the beginning of 2015 letters promoting this service went out to all patients with a form to be filled in and returned if they were interested. By May we had 370 patients signed up for this service. We hope that this number will continue to increase once they get familiar with the system and their confidence grows.
This service which has been introduced is able to make appointments online. This is great as booking GP appointments has always been very difficult for patients without booking far in advance or at 8am. Now patients can book ahead of time or book on the day appointments from midnight that day, before the telephones open at 8am. It has been a difficult IT job to make sure the right slots could be booked and after a few teething problems it seems to be working, although very few people are using it at the moment, this should improve as people become more familiar with the website.
At the start of last year our website was unimaginative and information was out of date. It was thought that if a new site was organised then we could use it for not only opening times, staff info etc, but information and related sites as well. This would open up a communication line straight to patients.
A professional team designed the website and then left the Practice to extend the site as best suits our needs and that of our patients. Development of the new website is not only key keeping patients informed of any changes in the Practice but is an invaluable aid to providing useful information on any issues that are thought worth bring to people’s attention. This can be updated regularly, cover any topics and link into other useful sites. Also it gives patients an opportunity to feel part of what is happening and read about staff members.
Our aim is to get patients engaged and encourage them to be active in their own health and well being.
Waiting Room and Automatic Check-In
The waiting room was an area that we felt could really do with a face lift. We needed to not only make it more welcoming but use the limited space to provide information and access to regularly used forms for our patients. Once we started thinking about how best to use the space it was agreed to introduce an automatic check in system, instead of waiting in a queue at the front desk, which has improved the way patients check in. Also the area around the check in was painted, a small screen was put up for privacy and small display units were included enabling regularly requested forms to be displayed. Finally a post box was added as well as cards giving information on local support and help groups. The Self Service area has also arrived.
This is working very well and freeing up receptionist time to take on other responsibilities.
Health and Well Being posters now decorate the bare walls and will be changed every month to highlight different topics. This is another way of showing our patients that we care and also starts conversations in the waiting room, making the whole experience more productive.
The Practice has been able to fund a fifth member for the reception team. This not only makes it easier when holidays are taken as the same level of service can be continued as before, but this has also given protected time to each member of the team, taking them away from the pressures of the front line and giving a chance to develop areas of interest. These include nursing homes, meds management, recalls and link administration. Other areas have been included in the role of receptionist making receptionists even more valuable in the practice in general and the growth of the practice.
Yoga and Swimming
Turning now to issues the staff felt should be addressed in regards to the pressure we all feel working in a Deep End Practice.It was decided that Yoga and Swimming would help relieve this stress. Once that was decided we had to ask where the yoga should be held and if other practices should be invited to join us. The general feeling was that it would be best to hold the yoga in our waiting room and make it only open to practice members. This would then be a safe place for staff trying something new. Those who take part do so with enthusiasm and everyone says they feel better in themselves, seem to be more in tune with other people and have reduced stress after doing the yoga.
Swimming is also encouraged and some staff are doing this regularly which also improves morale and team bonds.
During the first year of the links project it was thought that, as there had been a number of staff changes, it would benefit everyone to close the surgery for half a day once a month to have a training afternoon away from the surgery. This has built a stronger team which is able to cope with the plans that lie ahead and made the practice work as one as apposed to separate groups of GPs, Nurses and admin staff. The afternoons are well balanced, with the first hour involving everyone talking about any issues or problems that have occurred during the last month. Normally cakes, biscuits or sweets will be shared around making this a time of togetherness.
The other part of the training is sometimes together and other times split up where topics are discussed relevant to our individual roles.
We have started to have lunch together first and talking outside the work environment has been of great benefit. We see each other in a completely different light which has made a stronger more supportive base for the practice as a whole.
Annette Fennell, Practice Receptionist