Monday, 26 May 2014

Finding a new GP

I am GP-less!

No, I've not done anything stupid.

I'm moving home, so I need to find a new GP in the area I'm moving to. I've asked for three months of diabetes supplies to keep me going whilst I find, register and get set up with a new GP.

I'm moving within England and so I've been using the following search tool: NHS Service Search
If you are moving to/in Scotland the equivalent tool is: NHS24 Find Local
If you are moving to/in Wales you can search here: NHS Direct Wales Local Services Search
and if moving to/in Northern Ireland you can search here: Service Finder

...and there I was thinking it was a National Health Service :) I appreciate that the NHS can be fragmented because devolved powers makes health provision different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but I had wrongly assumed the ability to find a GP would be available from one place.

Before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every time I moved to a new area I just went to the nearest GP that was accepting patients and registered there. Now however I have very clear requirements of my GP practice and that means spending a little bit of time trying to find the best match - what I'm learning with every move is that there is always a need to compromise on my needs and there is very little choice.

What are my requirements?

  1. Online access to my medical records.
  2. Online option to order my repeat prescription and if possible book appointments.
  3. Ideally a GP with a special interest in diabetes or a diabetes practice nurse.
  4. Given I'm likely to be visiting often, it would nice to see a GP where the current patients have been giving good feedback.
I don't think these requirements are particularly onerous, but let's see how I get on!

Online access to my medical records

The first GP surgery listed as providing online access to medical records is Earls Barton Medical Centre, over 7.5 miles away. Unfortunately the catchment area for this practice only goes out as far as five miles, so isn't available to me.

The next GP surgery listed was Victoria Park Health Centre at nearly 22 miles away from my new address - needless to say this clearly puts me outside of their practice area and therefore unavailable to me!

It would seem that online access to my medical records isn't something I can look forward to anytime soon and if you think online access to medical records isn't particularly common, then it's unsurprising to find that being able to view your test results online is an even rarer beast!

Online option to order my repeat prescription and book appointments

The ability to order repeat prescriptions online is thankfully more widespread.
The nearest GP practice to my new home offers this option and it is less than five minutes walk to get there. The only issue is they aren't accepting new patients.

The next nearest is 5.5 miles away (by car) and I'm *just* outside of their practice area.

At this point I start to panic, could it be there isn't a single GP practice accepting new patients from the area I'm moving to? I ignore my wish list completely and start checking every practice available from the nearest to furthest.

Finally, at 6.5 miles away I find a GP practice accepting patients: Mawsley Surgery and then another at 7.5 miles away: Guilsborough Surgery that consider me to be within their practice area. So these are my only two options, but at least both allow you to order prescriptions online.

Mawsley Surgery website does provide a form you can fill in to request your medical records too. There is a fee (which is unspecified) but at least they acknowledge that people might want to do this, even if it is just a snapshot in time.

A GP with a special interest in diabetes or a diabetes practice nurse

Mawsley Surgery website is still telling people:
WE will reopen as follows:
Practice - Thursday 15thth (sic) May at 8:00am
but it does provide a list of who makes up the practice team. It doesn't tell you if anyone has an interest in diabetes and looking on the GMC website I can't even find one of the doctors listed!

Looking at the staff practicing at Guilsborough Surgery I come across similar problems. The website doesn't provide GMC numbers and when searching by name I can't find some of them. Nothing on the website gives an indication of any interests but under the "services we offer" section there is a nurse led chronic disease clinic - whatever that is!

Hidden within the Patient Participation Report March 2014 there was a clue:
"This year Dr Catti Moss gave talks on Skin Awareness during the summer months and then in the Autumn did some talks on Diabetes"
...and then I find out the reason I couldn't find her on the GMC website. It is because...
"Dr Catti Moss retired at the end of December"
I guess I will have to ring up and ask lots of questions instead!

Good feedback

Both have Patient Participation Groups, although Mawsley seems to focus on the immediate village going to the "Mawsley Parish Council, the Mawsley Newsletter and the Over 65’s forum to..." get feedback, despite a practice area that is much wider than this.

Mawsley is a third of the size of Guilsborough. It gets a 4.5 star rating (from 6 ratings) on the NHS choices website but only 87.2% would recommend the surgery in its patient survey.

On the other hand, Guilsborough gets a 3 star rating (from 5 ratings) and 92.2% would recommend the surgery.

The problem with these statistics is that the NHS Choices rating is based on a very low number of ratings, for some practices the ratings are based on things that happened several years ago and some people give extremely low ratings to point out an issue with one small aspect of the service provided. When you look at the patient surveys, the ratings aren't always reflective of the practice demographics either and tend to have a fairly low return rates. So you have to take them with a pinch of salt.

Do I really have a choice?

Do I really have a choice? I don't think so. It is very much a Hobson's choice and I suspect the answer will be Guilsborough. I'll ring up and ask a few questions but if I don't like the answers, where do I go?