Improving access for patients – a practice manager questionnaireReport as inadecuate

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BMC Family Practice

, 7:37

First Online: 19 June 2006Received: 24 March 2006Accepted: 19 June 2006


BackgroundThe administrative and professional consequences of access targets for general practices, as detailed in the new GMS contract, are unknown. This study researched the effect of implementing the access targets of the new GP contract on general practice appointment systems, and practice manager satisfaction in a UK primary health care setting.

MethodsA four-part postal questionnaire was administered. The questionnaire was modified from previously validated questionnaires and the findings compared with data obtained from the Western Health and Social Services Board WHSSB in N Ireland. Practice managers from the 59 general practices in the WHSSB responded to the questionnaire.

ResultsThere was a 94.9% response rate. Practice managers were generally satisfied with the introduction of access targets for patients. Some 57.1% of responding practices, most in deprived areas Odds ratio 3.13 -95% CI 1.01 – 9.80, p = 0.0256 had modified their appointment systems. Less booking flexibility was reported among group practices p = 0.006, urban practices p < 0.001 and those with above average patient list sizes p < 0.001. Receptionists had not received training in patient appointment management in a quarter of practices. Practices with smaller list sizes were more likely than larger ones to utilise nurses in seeing extra patients p = 0.007 or to undertake triage procedures p = 0.062.

ConclusionThe findings demonstrated the ability of general practices within the WHSSB to adjust to a demanding component of the new GP contract. Issues relating to the flexibility of patient appointment booking systems, receptionists- training and the development of the primary care nursing role were highlighted by the study.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1471-2296-7-37 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: James G Meade - James S Brown


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