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Appointments at Jenner Healthcare

In response to patient feedback about appointment availability, increasing levels of abusive behaviour towards our staff, online reviews of our services and the negative posts on social media that have once again been brought to our attention, we have produced an ‘Appointments Special’ newsletter which has been reproduced here.  Alternatively the newsletter can be downloaded by following the link on the homepage and at the bottom of this page. This is a long edition, but the hope is it will clarify our position on appointments and help patients to manage their health and wellbeing as best as they can using ours and other services within the capacity available.

We have also previously released a statement – “We are open – A message to all our patients” – and this can be found on our website:- https://www.jennerhealthcare.co.uk/we-are-open-a-message-to-all-our-patients

General Practice is in crisis and surgeries up and down the country are under incredible, relentless pressure.  Services are consistently stretched to the limit, and we at Jenner Healthcare are no different.

Why is there such a crisis?

The daily demand for appointments far outstrips the number of appointments we are actually able to offer.  This was the case long before the pandemic but has since been compounded by an increase in Covid-19 related workload as well as long backlogs in both primary care (GP’s and community services), and also secondary care (hospital services) which has had an inevitable knock on effect in GP surgeries.

Furthermore, locally there has been incredible growth in housing in the villages we serve, without any significant increase in services.  Simply put we are being asked to look after more and more people all the time.  Further growth in our communities is still proposed.

Every day we receive countless appointment requests directly from patients as well as proxy requests from carers, care home staff, hospital staff and other community staff such as pharmacists, paramedics, midwives, district nurses, Macmillan nurses and mental health practitioners to name a few.  Other agencies such as DWP also contact us requesting appointments for their clients. 

We receive these appointment requests in various different formats, depending on who is requesting the appointment – by telephone, in person, online, in writing and by e-mail.  We have telephone lines coming into all 3 of our surgery sites, being answered simultaneously.  Therefore, to address some patient’s comments about their position in the telephone queue, being number 4 in the queue doesn’t necessarily equate to being the 4th appointment request of the day. 

Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of people attending our surgery sites just before 8am to book an appointment in person.  This takes one of our receptionists off the phone, potentially at each site and therefore up to 3 receptionists at any given time.  If 3 of our receptionists are dealing with in-person appointment requests at the window and not answering the phones, then naturally it will take longer for calls to be answered.  Our phone lines are very busy between 8am and 10am when our receptionists are dealing with appointment requests so if your call is of a routine nature, please call after this time.

We are also required to offer a number of appointments per day to the 111 service and this capacity also has to be built into our appointment system.  Every patient who rings 111 and is allocated an appointment with us means an appointment is not available for us to offer directly.

The majority of appointment requests we receive are appropriate but research shows that as many as 40% of consultations with a GP are not actually needed.  This may be because it was more appropriate to self-care, or because the GP was not the best person to see.

We ask that before contacting the surgery, you consider self-care, and where this fails, you consider which service is most appropriate to help you depending on what is actually wrong.  We have previously produced a simple flowchart to help patients get the right help, from the right person, at the right time and this can be found on the homepage of our website (see ‘’Get the right help from the right person at the right time” leaflet).

A few important things to remember:

  • Our GP’s are available by appointment only
  • We are not a walk-in service
  • We are not an emergency service 
  • We have limited appointment availability and must prioritise the seriously ill or those with cancer (or suspected cancer)

GP workforce 

There is a real shortage of GP’s in this country and GP workload continues to increase as GP numbers fall.  According to Government data, since 2015 the number of full time equivalent GP’s in the country has fallen from 29,364 to 27,920 in 2021.

Nationally, both recruitment and retention of GP’s is difficult and we have experienced this locally.  We are short of clinical staff, have three surgery sites to maintain and have a patient list size of over 16,000.  This can mean that sometimes there is only one or two GP’s at each site, and on rare occasions we have been forced to close one of our sites due to having insufficient GP’s to open all three sites.  There is minimal slack in system to allow for GP holiday, sickness, bereavement, training/study leave etc.  GP’s are human too and like the patients they treat they have their own physical and emotional limits.

The European Union of General Practitioners suggest that 25 consultations per day is a sustainable limit for any individual GP.  The Policy Exchange document endorsed by Government – “At your service” – states that 28 consultations per day is the safe limit.  That is to say undertaking more than 28 consultations per day would be unsafe.  Despite this the average GP in this country is undertaking 37 consultations per session with 1 in 10 GP’s consulting with 60 people or more per day.

At Jenner Healthcare, each of our GP’s starts the day with 40 appointments.  However, despite not being an emergency service, every day they are asked to undertake additional unplanned, urgent and emergency care, the nature of which is unpredictable, resulting in extra patients throughout the day.  Consequently they routinely undertake many more than 40 consultations each day.

A common question we get asked is why are some GP’s working part-time if there is such a crisis in workforce?  It is important to remember that GP’s are humans too with their own individual set of personal circumstances and like everyone else they have the right to set their own personal and professional boundaries.  Like any worker, in any sector, GP’s are allowed to choose part-time working.  Furthermore, most GP’s work 12 hour days as an absolute minimum, often more, and on occasions some of our GP’s have worked as long as 18 hours continuously.  Taking 12 hours as the minimum, a GP who works a part-time 3 day week is still working at least 36 hours per week.  As of February 2022, the average number of hours worked by full-time workers in all sectors in the UK was 36.5 hours, compared with 34.2 hours worked in the same period of 2021.  Therefore a part-time GP working 3 days per week is still putting in as many hours as the average full-time worker in the UK, and often more.  Our GP’s are also still delivering Covid-19 vaccinations at weekends (in addition to their usual working hours) and are regularly performing significant amounts of administrative work at home on their days off.

What have we done to try and ease the situation?

We have had new telephone lines installed, increased the number of incoming lines and increased reception staffing levels at busy/peak times.  Despite these measures, our phone lines are still very busy.  This is because of the sheer number of people contacting our service every day.

We have completely overhauled our website to contain lots of self-care, self-help and signposting information to empower our patients to manage their own health and wellbeing.  This continues to evolve and we are currently working on some exciting ‘clinical pathways’.  See our new website at: www.jennerhealthcare.co.uk

We have created a dedicated “self-referral” page detailing a number of services who accept direct referrals from patients without the need to see or speak to a GP or practice nurse first.  See: https://www.jennerhealthcare.co.uk/help-and-support-service-types/self-referral/

We have created a “GP Top Tips” video available on our website homepage.

We have created a “Get the right help from the right person at the right time” flowchart to help our patients choose where they access help (available on our website homepage: www.jennerhealthcare.co.uk).

We moved to a ‘total triage’ appointments model at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  This was in line with NHS England (NHSE) guidance and the aim was to reduce avoidable footfall through our surgeries and protect both our patients and staff from the risk of Covid-19 infection.

However, since Covid-19 restrictions have been eased, we have maintained the ‘total triage’ model as a means of managing the limited appointment capacity we have.  This is in line with the NHS long term plan, launched prior to the pandemic, which aims for a ‘digital-first’ NHS, and many surgeries across the country have permanently adopted this model.

Contrary to the belief of a small minority of our patients, sadly fuelled by the media, we are not “hiding behind Covid-19”.
Face to face appointments are still available, for those who truly need them after discussion with one of our clinicians.

To explain ‘total triage’, if you feel you need an appointment at the surgery please contact us in the usual way either by phoning reception or booking online using either SystmOnline or Doctorlink.  Phone 01733 270219 for Thorney, 01733 222282 for Eye and 01733 206200 for Whittlesey.  

A clinician will then contact you by phone to triage your needs and discuss the most appropriate way of providing advice or care.  Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable nature of our work – we often have unplanned, urgent or emergency situations to deal with – we cannot offer an exact time for the call.

Once you speak with one of our clinicians, it may be that your problem can be fully managed over the phone, or by video call, but if you and the clinician agree a face to face consultation is needed you will be offered an appropriate appointment for this.  

If you are offered a face to face appointment it is important you attend the surgery at the time advised by the clinician and wear a face covering (unless under 11 years of age or exempt).

We have employed other members of staff to try and ease the demand on GP appointments.  For example, Advanced Nurse PractitionersClinical Pharmacists and Social Prescribers are already in post and helping large numbers of patients.  Across our Primary Care Network (PCN) we are also looking at other roles such as First Contact Physiotherapists.

We continue to try and recruit clinical staff.

We aim to help as many people as possible, but ultimately, General Practice is not a 24 hour a day service and has finite daily capacity.  Sometimes, in order to maintain safety for our patients, and protect the wellbeing of our staff, we simply cannot just keep accepting more and more patients.  If we do not work safely, this will increase the risk of mistakes being made.  When we cannot help, we are committed to signposting you to an alternative service that can.

It is important to remember that if the surgery is unable to help, and you feel you have a genuine emergency, an urgent need that cannot wait, or you are simply unsure and need help deciding, the NHS 111 service, the  Accident & Emergency department and the ambulance service are all open 24 hours a day and the Urgent Treatment Centre is open 8am until 8pm daily.  The First Response Service, available by calling 111 and choosing option 2, also provides crisis mental health support 24 hours a day.
At Jenner Healthcare we are here to help, and like all parts of the NHS, are doing our very best under extremely challenging circumstances.  We continue to work really hard for our patients and ask that you are kind to us when contacting the surgery.

Jenner Healthcare support the NHS #BeKind campaign

Jenner Heathcare enforce the NHS Zero Tolerance policy

Jenner Healthcare support the NHS #Weareprimarycare campaign

Jenner Healthcare Zero Tolerance policy:https://www.jennerhealthcare.co.uk/about-us/practice-policies/at-the-practice/zero-tolerance  
Jenner Healthcare Social Media Policy:https://www.jennerhealthcare.co.uk/social-media-posts  

MP for Thorney & EYE: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25795/paul_bristow/peterborough

MP for Whittlesey: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24916/steve_barclay/north_east_cambridgeshire

When we are closed …

If you need urgent help whilst we are closed, you can contact the NHS 111 service online at www.111.nhs.uk or you can call 111. Your symptoms will be assessed and you will be directed to the right service, this could include visiting a pharmacy, a telephone or video consultation or attending GP out-of-hours base for a face-to-face consultation.

If your problem is life-threatening ring 999 immediately.

If you are experiencing an emergency go straight to your nearest A&E.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, ring 111 option 2.