Every month Rutland Patient’s Voice publishes a monthly column in the Rutland Times. Shorter versions of each column are available below.
Are you an invisible patient?
Today’s Doctor joke:
Receptionist at the Surgery: “Doctor, there’s a patient on the phone who says he’s invisible”
Doctor: “Well, tell him I can’t see him at the moment”
You might think that invisible patients are pretty rare. Yet every day, reception staff are searching and calling out the names of patients who have booked to see a doctor or nurse. The doctor is waiting and receptionists are neglecting other duties elsewhere and these invisible patients seem to be crouching silently in a corner of the surgery.
Research has now revealed that the problem is not one of invisible patients, but it is a problem of patients who have not turned up for their appointment and have not informed the surgery.
You might think that the majority of DNAs (Do not attend) are elderly patients with failing memories. But no………, many are patients who change their mind or find the time inconvenient and then do not have the forethought to ring the surgery.
In the last 12 months there have been 4,479 missed appointments at the Oakham Medical Practice. That is an eye-watering 86 appointments per week or 17 per working day. It is 5% of all appointments that are missed. This wastes the time of half a full-time doctor or clinical nurse.
The good news is that 78,963 patients arrived for their appointments as planned.
Congratulations and very well done to all and every one of you for supporting your local surgery in a thoughtful and efficient way.
But for all those ‘invisible people’ out there, please make a big effort to record and remind yourself about appointments. Just think that you can help someone see their doctor by just making a quick call to the surgery.
Today’s Doctor joke:
Patient: “Doctor, I just can’t stop singing ‘The green, green grass of home’. It goes on all day and all night and I am exhausted”
Doctor: “That sounds like the ‘Tom Jones Syndrome’”
Patient: “Is it common?”
Doctor: “It’s not unusual”
Another thing that’s ‘not unusual’ is for patients to have difficulty making telephone contact with the Oakham Medical Practice surgery between 8.30am and 10am. When we hear the engaged tone, what do we do next….. put the phone down and think: “Bl***y receptionists…….they can’t even bother to answer the phone.
Then we ring again and now we hear the recorded message. “Ha, couldn’t organise a p**s-up in a brewery, that lot.” Now we put the phone down again.
The Practice receives a phone call every 40 seconds, on average, throughout the working day. Now, that is the average and between 8.30 – 9.30am it receives an eye-watering one every 12 seconds. There is no practical way that this number of calls can be dealt with…. so, patients and the Practice must work together to ease this problem-spot.
A new and improved telephone system was installed in March last year. The system can take many more calls and allows the manager to monitor incoming calls. Staff can be deployed from other tasks, at busy times. Callers who have hung up can be identified and contacted later. Reception staff really are efficient and hard-working and achieve the best result for patients within the resource constraints that they work.
So it is going to be necessary for patients to change the time and method of contact in the future. Resources will not increase sufficiently to meet the early morning demand.
The single biggest way that patients can help is to make telephone contacts after 10am. Even more helpful would be to make calls after 12 noon. Afternoon calls are generally answered immediately.
Other ways that patients can help are by not hanging up when their call is being held, using the online appointments system, using the self-referral system. Please save yourself the frustrations of ringing first thing in the morning… ring later if you possibly can.