On the 13th of January a major meeting, organised and chaired by Colin Beattie MSP, took place to discuss the steps needed to improve access to health services at Riverside Medical Practice. The meeting consisted of representatives from Riverside Medical Practice, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, NHS 24, and the Riverside Medical Practice Patient Participation Group. The meeting was set up by Mr Beattie to bring these relevant stakeholders together to address ongoing concerns about the practice, primarily but not only relating to patients having difficulty contacting Riverside via telephone.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
‘I wanted to organise this meeting to bring together all the stakeholders who should be involved in supporting Riverside to provide a service that meets constituent’s expectations, so that we could all work together collectively towards that goal.
‘Riverside have outlined that one of the biggest issues over the last few months was that there were not enough staff members available to answer the phones, which was worsened by Covid-19 absences and a large increase in calls following the lockdown period.
‘It certainly seems that they are on the right pathway to improving these telephone access issues. Riverside have now recruited 8 call handlers to manage the volume of incoming calls to the practice. The practice has outlined that this should allow them to answer around 10,000 calls monthly, which is the capacity at which they believe telephone access times for patients becomes acceptable. This should also allow for shorter average waiting times in getting through to the practice, so that patients are not on hold for longer than normal.
‘The practice is also bringing in expertise, in the form of a senior figure with significant clinical and operational experience, who will be able to evaluate the telephony issues and work out how these can be enhanced and improved going forward.
‘I will not pretend that I expect all issues to be resolved overnight from this meeting, but I do believe that this is good progress with all parties accepting deficiencies in the service and committing to working to eliminate them. The practice, supported by East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, are eager to make some real changes that will provide patients with a service that they feel more supported by. I will continue to organise these meetings over the coming months to ensure that we remain on the right path and improve local satisfaction with the practice.
‘For now, something we can all be doing is making ourselves aware of the services that are available and can take the pressure off our GP practices, who are going to be under strain as they administer Covid-19 vaccines to keep us all safe.
‘We can play our part by checking if there are other safe, local services we can access before our GP practice. Very often, these are close to home and provide a quick and convenient response, for example contacting an optometrist for an eye problem. A great place to start is by looking at the NHS Inform website at https://www.nhsinform.scot/. NHS 24 has worked with experts and service users across Scotland to provide trustworthy information on a wide range of topics, conditions and to highlight what services are close to you.
‘Another easy option is the dedicated Riverside Medical Practice website which can be accessed at www.theriversidepractice.co.uk where some queries can be dealt with quickly and easily, such as ordering a repeat prescription. Your local community pharmacist can help with treatment of minor ailments and queries about medications. The Pharmacy First website (https://www.pharmacyfirst.co.uk/) explains how simple this is for us to use. If you have a minor injury you can use the ‘Call MIA’ service for expert help and treatment (https://services.nhslothian.scot/Emergencies/Pages/MinorInjuryUnit.aspx ). NHS 24 111 provides urgent care advice, day or night, and health and dental support when your GP practice or dentist is closed. The service can also help if you are in mental distress
‘Covid-19 has been a real challenge for our health service and we need to play our part in distributing pressure across the service where possible, and this means moving it off General Practice as much as feasible during the vaccination period. There will be a national leaflet drop to every home in Scotland later in January explaining what services are available to all people for a range of problems. I hope this leaflet will be helpful in guiding constituents to all their healthcare options.
‘I will be maintaining close relations with the practice and relevant stakeholders to ensure good progress is made. As always, if any constituents are having issues or if you would like to provide any feedback, whether that is negative or positive, I would invite you to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to look at any feedback.’
Riverside Medical Practice is currently constrained by vaccine supply but has now vaccinated 100+ people. The team there are working their way through their list of registered patients aged 80 and over who can attend the surgery in person. If this applies to you, please be aware that the practice will contact you, so you do not need to call them to set this up. Housebound people aged 80 and over will be contacted direct by local health board vaccination teams. Find out more information on Covid-19 vaccine distribution here:
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