Since October, you’ve contacted us about more than 200 experiences with local health and social care services and we've used this feedback to raise issues with those who make decisions about NHS and care services in our area, so they can improve things.
What you’ve said about GP services
More than 120 experiences you've shared with us relate to local GP services and other primary care services such as dentists, pharmacists and opticians. This represents over 50 per cent of the issues you have talked to us about.
Unfortunately many of these problems we’ve been hearing about frequently:
- Inflexible appointment booking systems - practices insisting patients call at 8am weekdays for an appointment, only for callers to find all that day’s appointments have gone. One patient wrote to their practice: “a five-minute window (at most) to get a GP appointment is unacceptable”.
- Limited communication routes eg: practice phone number constantly engaged, while online contact forms have been closed.
- A hearing-impaired patient told us they couldn’t speak to their GP surgery without a hearing friend/family member, because the surgery refused to speak via any method other than telephone.
- Housebound patients have said their needs were being overlooked, eg: Covid-19 booster vaccines given three months after able-bodied patients in their age group.
- We also heard about care home managers who could not persuade GPs to visit and check on residents’ health concerns.
What is being done?
We have taken your concerns to those in charge of local GP services and this has led to some changes, such as upgrades to telephony systems at selected surgeries to make appointment booking quicker and easier.
We have also ensured patients entitled to a Covid-19 vaccination at home received one and that accessibility standards are being met.
We continue to chair meetings between GPs and patients to find solutions to challenges relating to extremely high levels of demand for services. We will also stay involved in Hertfordshire County Council Scrutiny’s review of access to primary care, providing input and patient feedback.
What you've said about hospitals
About 50 people have contacted us with concerns about hospitals including waiting times for appointments and procedures and not updating family or next-of-kin about loved ones in hospital, when in-person visits were not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.
These issues cause great concern and worry, particularly when patients are left waiting with no communication about when they will be seen.
Most concerning was the lack of adherence to the ‘2-week-wait’ cancer diagnosis pathway. We spoke to a number of patients who were distressed to find out they had longer waits - in one case 3 weeks, and in another case almost 3 months.
What is being done?
We are raising concerns directly with senior NHS hospital staff to investigate the lack of adherence to the ‘2-week-wait’ cancer diagnosis pathway.
We are also suggesting patients visit the NHS My Planned Care website, which offers updated waiting times for each NHS Trust and advice to help patients while they wait. Hospitals in Hertfordshire and Essex can be found in the East of England region.
It is also worth noting that some services in Hertfordshire are planning to offer extended hours for diagnostic tests to cope with additional demand.
What you’ve said about care home visiting rules
As Covid-19 rules in the community have eased, people have told us how frustrating it is that care home rules are inconsistent and confusing.
Families of care home residents told us there were different rules about when they could visit friends and family – even different rules between care homes.
This has led to misunderstandings and disappointment for both care home residents and their loved ones.
What is being done?
We are looking at how a named person can visit during times of outbreak, in line with latest Government guidance, and whether there is enough flexibility and family involvement in decision-making regarding visiting.
By working with care home providers, Commissioners and partners in the community and voluntary sector, we want to improve the quality of visits, as we all learn to live with Covid-19.