Poor results and complaints are serious concerns for GP surgeries, whether about quality of care, staff or levels of communication. According to NHS Digital data, written complaints about GP surgeries totalled 72,356 in 2018/19 and the leading reason for these complaints (14.3%) was communication.
Similarly, the second largest group of surgery employees to file written complaints to their employers were administration staff, including receptionists. They accounted for 19,592 out of 74,832, equating to 26.2% of all complaints.
We think that is interesting. Receptionists and administration staff are the first port of call when a patient rings or visits a surgery. These staff members soak up much of a patient’s frustration if they have been struggling to get through on the phone or cannot make an appointment for a time that suits them. If reception staff are trying to help patients but are using out-of-date communications tools, their jobs will be even more difficult. Plenty of reason for complaint on both sides!
In a recent case study, one of our customers heralded the arrival of their new hosted phone system and its effect on the results from the latest GP Patient Survey. In his words: “Our call handling has gone from one of the worst in our CCG to one of the best. swcomms has helped us to achieve this improvement by providing us with such a good system.”
This surgery’s call answering statistics had been poor. New technology has helped them improve communication with patients and has made their receptionists’ jobs a lot easier.
We appreciate ‘communication’, in terms of a complaints’ category, could also encompass language difficulties or hurried appointments, but we have seen first-hand, that often GP surgeries are being thwarted by a lack of lines and old equipment because they do not have the budget to invest in a better phone system.
A lack of budget can be largely overcome by purchasing a pay-per-user solution whereby all costs are included in a fixed monthly fee, often for less than surgeries are paying for their line rental, calls and support. There is no upfront cost to budget for.
This enables surgeries to enjoy increased line capacity, so they can handle more concurrent calls to minimise waiting times. Where patients do have to wait, they are placed in a queue and listen to useful surgery information or comfort messages that assure them their calls will be answered. These will serve to improve patient service and reduce the stress put on reception staff.
With a modern telephony solution in place, GP surgeries can also improve other areas of their communication strategy. Hosted phone systems offer free calls to UK landlines and mobiles, so telephony consultations become less costly. This will give surgeries the option to offer more flexible appointments that are more suited to their patients’ commitments while staving off competition from app-based GP services.
These telephone consultations can also be recorded so if a complaint arises from a conversation, the details can be checked while the recording can be used in court in the event of serious dispute. In fact, call recording can be used throughout the surgery as a training aid to promote excellent communication standards.
We are sure GP surgeries deal with all complaints seriously, as there is much that can be learned from them and positive actions can follow. Communication was the main cause for complaint in 2018/19. We believe the 14.3% figure can be partially driven down with the help of suitable telephony technology.
If you need any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me.