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Share your experiences of GP referrals

Share your experiences of GP referrals

Have you been referred by your GP practice to a specialist for tests, diagnosis or treatment? Or have you expected or requested a referral but didn’t get one? We’d like to hear about your experiences to help the NHS understand what is working and what could be better.

The survey will only take a few minutes of your time and any information you share will be anonymised.

What is a GP referral?

It’s when a GP or other medical professional at a GP practice sends you to a specialist at a hospital or community clinic for further tests, diagnosis or treatment. Your GP could make a referral for many reasons, such as a hip replacement, MRI scan, physio, mental health services, endoscopy and more. A referral can happen during a phone or face-to-face appointment.

Tell us about your experiences

Share your views about GP referrals

Share your views about GP referrals

Have you or your loved one struggled to get a GP referral for tests or treatment?

Healthwatch England has been hearing from the public about how hard it can be to get a GP practice referral to another NHS service, and they would like to hear about your experiences.

GPs are the first point of call for many health issues and the gateway to specialist support. But with many GP surgeries stretched thin and under pressure, NHS decision-makers need to understand if people are finding it difficult to get the right help.

Examples of services your GP can refer you to include:

  • Scans or tests for a diagnosis of a condition or health issue
  • Mental health support
  • Surgery for knees, hips and eyes
  • Support like physiotherapy for back pain or arthritis
  • Non-urgent heart problems
  • Wellbeing services, like smoking cessation or diabetes management.

The impact of delayed referrals

GP referrals affect people of every age group, every background, and every region across the country. Some of the things patients have said include:

  • People feel like their symptoms are dismissed
  • They have to try multiple times before they’re successful
  • They are left in the dark about how serious their condition is.

Share your views

As the independent champion of health and social care services, we want to hear your experiences of trying to get specialist NHS support, like physiotherapy, talking therapies, hospital scans and consultations.

By sharing your story, we can use your feedback to help the NHS better understand your challenges and improve how people access the care they need.

Find out more about GP referrals

This piece of work has now ended.

Brockwell Surgery relocation

Brockwell Surgery relocation

Earlier this year we helped Brockwell Medical Group to hear from patients their thoughts on the proposal to relocate Brockwell surgery to a new build located on the site of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital. We held three online forums during February and March 2022 for patients and residents.

Pauline Ironside, Business Lead from Valens Medical Partnership and Dr Aamir Munir from the surgery were at the sessions to provide an overview of the proposal and answer any questions. Jen Coe from Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group Engagement also attended and Shari Kelly from Valens Medical Partnership joined us for one of the online sessions.

Feedback on the proposed relocation

In total eight people came to the forums and all were patients of Brockwell Surgery. We also received some feedback via social media, email and telephone. A summary of the areas of feedback we recieved are outlined below.

Read detailed questions and answers from the forums in Appendix A.

1. Travel to the new surgery

One of the primary concerns we heard was around travelling to the new site for appointments, particularly as public transport did not appear to be readily available and taxis would be expensive. Concerns tended to be for elderly people or others who may be unable to drive. One person mentioned her elderly parents could rely on her for lifts, but others would not necessarily have that same family network. Another person said that she was currently unable to drive due to a health issue and would struggle to get to the new site.

There was a general feeling that the current surgery was a ‘community’ facility serving its patient location and demographic well and that a move would detract from that. A query was raised about whether a postcode analysis of current patients had been completed. Two people mentioned that the current site was walking distance for them. However, we also heard from one person that the new proposed site was closer to travel to and a suggestion that this would also be the case for others.

Related travel concerns and questions are outlined below:

  • Alternative options to proposed move

 There was some acceptance about the need for improved premises and services, but a question was raised by two people about whether expansion on the current site was possible as an alternative and another two people about whether the current surgery could be kept open as a ‘branch’ surgery alongside the new proposed site.

  • Environmental and cost implications

 Due to the observation that most patients would likely have to travel further to access the new site a concern was raised at one forum and via social media about the environmental impact of people having to drive to appointments who are usually able to walk. Alongside the concern about taxis being expensive for those who cannot drive, the costs of public transport for those who could use it to get to the new site and increased petrol costs for those driving to the new site were also raised.

  • Alternative transport options

There was general support for the proposal of a free transport solution in partnership with Age UK Northumberland. We heard that this would not only be for the elderly community but also younger patients who were struggling with transport to the new site. However, there was a concern raised about ensuring the transport available was safe and accessible for frail elderly people who may not be able to step up into a mini-bus or be safely seated before it moved away. One person told us that her autistic son who is also non-verbal potentially may struggle with this type of transport solution.

There was also a concern that any transport solution should be sustainable, and a query was raised as to how this would be and continue to be funded in the future particularly given Age UK’s charitable status.

2. Parking concerns

 Another primary concern raised in relation to the new site was around parking. Several queries were raised about whether this would be free parking and there were concerns around how parking would be managed at the new site and if hospital patients would be prevented from using it.  We did however, also receive feedback from someone at a forum and another via social media about the difficulties parking at the current site and how the new site could improve parking concerns.

Other considerations

The engagement process

There was some concern raised about the engagement process itself following unexpected delays in patient letters being received. However, it is noted that some more online sessions were arranged and the survey date extended due to this delay.

Concerns were raised about ensuring the voices of those who may be digitally excluded, whose first language is not English, and those with protected characteristics were heard as part of the engagement process. We also had a suggestion from one person that the survey appeared biased in favour of the proposal, and another was concerned that the proposal was like a move proposed several years ago and therefore felt contributions made from patients as part of that process should also be considered. A few people were keen to understand whether the proposal was a ‘done deal’ regardless of patient views.

Miscellaneous

We received a couple of comments that the move appeared more beneficial to staff than to patients and a related query about whether there were financial incentives for medical partners for the move.

We also heard a query around pharmacy services and whether these would remain at the current site or move to the new site, showing a potential concern about disruption to services.

Summary

The feedback we received about the proposed relocation centered mainly around two key issues which were travel to the site, particularly for those who do not drive, and concerns about parking. Due to these concerns people were keen to know if other options closer to the current site had been considered or whether some provision could also remain at the current site should the move go ahead.

Recommendations

  • Ensure continued meaningful engagement on the proposal if approved. For example, develop and deliver a communications plan with patient representatives that provides regular updates to all patients, highlights when key milestones are reached/achieved and identifies when and how feedback will be sought on key issues.
  • Given the queries received about whether the current site could instead be expanded, further information should be included in the FAQs about the reasons that this is not possible, to improve transparency and patient confidence in the process.
  • Whilst alternatives to travel to the site for those who do not drive are being considered, these options need to be both transparent and viable and communicated fully to patients to help alleviate concerns. Information about available bus routes should ideally be published or at least be offered to affected patients prior to any agreement on the proposal to allow for further feedback. At a minimum this could be via a Traveline ‘plan your journey’ link on the website.  A travel impact assessment focusing on those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act should be completed, including an Environmental Impact Assessment.
  • Should the proposal go ahead, parking solutions at the new site should be fully and clearly communicated to visiting patients.
  • Given potential difficulties in travel, further consideration should be given to how multiple frequent surgery visits within one day would be managed, for example, stool and urine sampling cases.

 

June 2022: Brockwell Surgery relocation approved

The Brockwell Surgery relocation has now been approved. The practice was given the final approval at NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee held in May 2022. You can read more about the move at Valens Medical Partnership’s website.

 

Tell us about using GP Services

Tell us about using GP Services

We are helping the NHS in our area to find out more about your experiences of using GP services in Northumberland. We’d like to know which healthcare professional at your GP practice you prefer to see, how quickly you would like to be seen and how far you would be willing to travel for an appointment.

We’d also like to know if weekend and evening appointments are useful to you and if you prefer a telephone or video consultation or a face to face appointment with your GP, nurse or other healthcare professional at your surgery.

Your views are really important as they will be used in decisions about any future changes to the way people access GP services in Northumberland.

You can , over the phone by calling 03332 408468 or texting 07413 385275 for a callback, or ask us for a postal copy with freepost return.

There is the chance to enter a prize draw to win a £100, £50 or £25 High Street voucher as a thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please leave your views or send any paper copies back to us by Friday 25 February 2022.

This piece of work has now finished.

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Menopause Day: A tale of two Tinas

Menopause Day: A tale of two Tinas

World Menopause Day: A tale of two Tinas

On World Menopause Day this year we wanted to highlight the differences in treatment from healthcare services in Northumberland that two women have experienced as they go through the menopause.

‘A tale of two Tinas’ is two women’s experience of healthcare treatment for perimenopause and menopause, told from their own point of view.

Given that almost half of the population of Northumberland are going to go through the menopause at some stage in their lives, we would hope that Tina R’s story, outlined below, would be the most common experience.

A Tale of Two Tinas: World Menopause Day 2021

Read more about the symptoms and treatment of menopause at the NHS website.

Miss Menopause is a Facebook group for working women in the north east.

 

Why don’t you tell us your story of the healthcare services you have used during the menopause, and help us build a picture of what’s happening across the county.

Virtual appointment Hubs Northumberland

Virtual appointment Hubs Northumberland

Virtual Appointment Hubs for Northumberland

Patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside are being encouraged to make the most of digital hubs, set up to help them access online healthcare.

Community hubs are being set up across the county by the Public Health Team at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council to offer confidential spaces for individuals to access virtual appointments who may not have the technology or don’t feel confident in doing it themselves at home.

Since the start of 2021, the Ashington hub has supported 70 outpatient appointments online and the trust is putting arrangements in place to support people from other areas too, including Wooler/Glendale, Belford, Blyth, Longbenton, Meadow Well and Wallsend.

Already, 35% of all appointments per month at the trust are via telephone or online, saving unnecessary hospital visits, travel and parking costs and the need for people to make work or childcare arrangements.

There are also huge environmental benefits. Over the past year, patients at the trust travelled over two point six million fewer miles than the year before.

Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing midwifery and allied health professionals and executive director of surgery and community at the trust said “I’m so pleased we are able to offer this support closer to home for our patients.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have seen a huge shift to online appointments which can be hugely beneficially for both our local residents and our staff. Less footfall in our hospitals also means less opportunities for infections to spread – which will help keep our patients and staff safe.

“But we know not everyone is able to readily access the internet and there are lots of people who struggle to get online. This can be for a number of reasons such as living in an area with poor quality broadband or personal situations which make it difficult.”

According to The Good Things Foundation, nine million people in the UK are unable to use the internet independently and seven million people do not have the internet at home. These hubs aim to tackle these inequalities in digital literacy, digital poverty and digital connectivity to improve health outcomes for local populations.

Marion continued “We are now operating at a level where the most appropriate type of appointment can be offered to a patient, and they can be safely seen in the outpatient department when necessary. We want to make sure everyone has the ability and the skills to access their healthcare in a way which works for them.”

Clinic details

  • Wooler/Glendale area, Cheviot Centre, Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm, 01668 282406.
  • Ashington, Being Woman at YMCA Northumberland, Tuesday – Thursday, 0778647233. or 0800 9991876. Please note: this service is not just available for women.
  • North Northumberland, Belford, Bell View, 01668 219220.
  • Longbenton, Oxford Centre, 0191 643 2750.
  • Wallsend, LD: North East, 0191 262 2261 Please note: this centre is for people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities only.
  • Meadow Well Connected, call 0191 341 0033 between 9am – 3pm to arrange an appointment.
  • Blyth Horizons North East, Community Lounge, 01670 359465 (option 4) 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday.

Please note: patients need to call in advance of their appointments to book in and all premises have been COVID-19 risk assessed.

 

If you or someone in your family has used one of these hubs, tell us about your experience.

Click and Connect: GP online services report

Click and Connect: GP online services report

GP online services report

GP online services can cover a range of different functions, for example, booking appointments online, ordering repeat prescriptions and viewing medical records, test results and medicines. Many people find it more convenient to register for online services rather than having to rely on telephone or in person contact with their surgery. This has been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic, due to social distancing restrictions.

We were contacted by someone who told us about the difficulties they had experienced trying to register for GP services online. They found the process complicated, particularly as they were asked to visit the practice in person with ID, in the middle of the pandemic. We decided to do some work to look at how people in Northumberland could register for online services at GP practices across the county.

Click and Connect: GP Online Services Report

Do It For Yourself

Do It For Yourself

We are supporting the #DoItForYourself initiative which helps raise awareness around the symptoms of lung cancer and the importance of early diagnosis. If you’ve noticed any signs of lung cancer, such as breathlessness or a cough lasting for more than three weeks, contact your GP practice to get checked out.

Lung cancer can affect people of all ages, but the risk increases as you get older. The campaign specifically targets men and women over the age of 50 as lung cancer most commonly affects people of this age group.

Before the pandemic the early diagnosis of lung cancer was challenging, with many patients presenting with a late stage cancer when curative treatment is not an option. Covid has added the complication of potentially disguising the signs and symptoms of lung cancer. If you have any concerns, your GP practice is there to help.

Read more about the symptoms and treatment of lung cancer

How to contact your GP and get the help you need

How to contact your GP and get the help you need

As a result of Covid-19, the way patients access GP practices has had to change. Whilst this can be frustrating and unsettling at times, it is necessary to make sure that all staff and patients are kept safe. The following guidance from Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group will help you to contact your GP and get the help you need.

What to do if you need to contact your GP

If your needs are non-urgent, adult patients can contact their GP via the e-consult service on your practice’s website in the first instance. You can contact your GP practice and get a reply within two working days. You can also request medication, sick notes and bloods results through this service.

For health care needs regarding children, urgent problems or for those patients who are unable to access online services, you should telephone your practice and your call will be answered as soon as possible. The practice may ask for a brief summary of the problem to help direct you to the most appropriate member of the GP practice team.

Please note that your consultation may not need to be with a GP. It may be that the care/advice you need can be given by another member of the practice team.

Where possible and appropriate, consultations will be conducted either online or via telephone. If a face-to-face appointment is required and you need to visit the practice, please wear a face covering (unless exempt) when you arrive.

Face-to-face appointments

Your temperature may be taken on arrival and you will also need to sanitise your hands. Please be aware that the surgery doors may be locked and you will need to be granted access by a member of the practice team. There will be less people in the waiting room than usual and chairs are positioned apart from each other to ensure you can observe social distancing.

Please ensure you observe social distancing while in your GP surgery. There is clear signage to guide you. You are asked to wear a face covering if you need to attend the surgery in person.

If you have any coronavirus symptoms including a high temperature, new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste please DO NOT visit a GP surgery. You must stay at home along with anyone you live with and anyone in your support bubble. Only leave home to get a test. Self-isolate until you get your result.

Urgent medical needs

Please don’t delay in contacting your GP practice if you have an urgent medical need. The NHS is here for you and your family.
You can also get urgent medical advice online from 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111. For life-threatening emergencies please call 999 or go straight to A&E.

What practices are doing to ensure services can be resumed as soon as possible

Practices are working extremely hard to manage the backlog of work and patient appointments as a result of Covid-19. Please be assured that they will be doing all they can to arrange appointments and services for you as quickly as possible.

Please also be mindful that, at times, workforces may be affected by Covid-19, so teams may be smaller than usual. They are, however, all doing their very best to look after you. We ask you to be patient, polite and respectful. No type of abuse will be tolerated by any member of staff.

All the necessary steps are being taken to protect you and staff from coronavirus. Robust measures are in place to ensure that practices are safe.

When to self-isolate

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Please do not visit your GP surgery. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

If you are not experiencing symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, you also must self-isolate for at least 10 days, starting from the day the test was taken.

If you develop symptoms during this isolation period, you must restart your 10-day isolation from the day you develop symptoms. If you live with others, all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the household became ill or if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.

High risk groups

If you are in a high risk group, you can still go out provided you are well but you should:

  • Maintain two metres distance from people outside your support bubble
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Wear a face covering in shops and other enclosed spaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wash your hands carefully and more frequently than normal
  • Use sanitiser outside your home (where available) especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces.

 

NHS asks ‘do your bit’

NHS asks ‘do your bit’

Don’t just turn up to A&E – think pharmacy, 111 and GP first

Public asked to #doyourbit to protect the NHS by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies.

Health leaders across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.

The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid19.

Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent. Action is needed now to protect patients and staff alike from now and into the future.

Bas Sen, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Regional Clinical Advisor for the North East and Yorkshire said: “We want to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment when they urgently need it. We are now putting in place measures to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices. This will help ensure their safety, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the most appropriate place.

“Specifically, if their need is not life threatening, we would advise patients to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.

“Advice will be provided based on individual issues and solutions will range from self-care through to an appointment with a GP, or being directed to go to a pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre.

“Those that do turn up to either an A&E department or an Urgent Treatment Centre, will be assessed clinically by a member of our team and if suitable, will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs.”

The campaign is supporting a pilot scheme which commenced on 3 August by the NHS in the North Integrated Partnership (ICP) area (which covers Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) before being rolled out across the region in September 2020.

Bas continued: “Too many people who come to A&E can be dealt with quicker by an alternative service such as their pharmacist, GP or 111. In light of COVID-19, and with winter ahead, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”

“Because of the need to socially distance our hospitals have reduced space in waiting rooms and with around 50-70 per cent of attendances at A&E made up of patients who walk-in we must keep people safe – especially our most vulnerable and shielded patients.

“By thinking of alternative services such as pharmacist, GP and 111 first people can do their bit to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies. At the same time this also means they will get the right treatment in a timely manner, in the most appropriate place for them too.

“So please don’t turn up or walk in to A&E or urgent care services without seeking advice from either a 111, GP or pharmacist, first – unless your condition is life threatening.

“Please remember that NHS 111 can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance should your condition be serious or life-threatening.”

In addition, we are asking people to act responsibly and consider carefully the impact drug use and alcohol has on people behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.

Clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our health and care staff across the North East and North Cumbria. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.”