What matters most to people when getting support from their GP
Whole-person centred approach is key to providing care for people living with a range of conditions, including mental health and autism.
People living with a brain injury, a mental health issue, autism or dementia have highlighted the importance of high quality whole-person care when visiting their general practice. In Healthwatch Birmingham’s latest investigation, people’s views highlighted a variation in the quality of GPs, which can impact patients accessing services and getting support to manage their condition.
What do patients value?
People told us they would like to see consistent and effective joined up care, with improvements needed to treat mental health equally with physical health. We heard from patients living with the above conditions, from across the city, about the importance of people:
- being able to make appointments quickly and easily, particularly when in crisis.
Patients told us they would benefit from more modern, accessible booking systems, whilst people shared that the 10 minute consultation period presents obstacles to getting adequate support from their GP.
- having stability of services and continuity of care.
“It’s hard enough to talk about mental health issues to anyone, let alone a Dr I’ve never met before,” one patient told us. People value effective continuity of care, where they can see the same GP, build trust and understanding and speak confidently about their condition.
- receiving swift referrals to specialist and community services.
Some patients shared positive experiences of getting referred to the right services, however patients with autism reported difficulties in diagnosis, assessment and specialist support. People living with a mental health issue told us they value when GPs are knowledgeable about the range of support services out there that can help.
- being seen by a GP who has knowledge and training of their condition
Feedback from patients told us how important it is that GPs have the skills and training about conditions such as autism, dementia, mental health or brain injury. People with autism in particular stressed the importance of GPs being knowledgeable and able to effectively support in diagnosis, medication and care, which needs to be of consistent high quality to help patients.
Recently the Department of Health and Social Care announced new measures to improve care for people with autism and learning disabilities. This follows on from proposals announced earlier this year, which will see all health and care staff undertake mandatory training.
Improving people’s experiences of general practice
Following our investigation, Healthwatch Birmingham has recommended that Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) produce high quality patient information cards or leaflets to help patients, and their carers, overcome some of the issues they face when getting support from their GP. Similar cards are already in use – Northumberland has introduced their Dementia cards and Healthy London Partnership has developed the ‘My Right to Access Healthcare’ cards.
Karen Helliwell, Director of Integration at NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Local people are at the heart of everything we do. The CCG’s aim to improve the health and wellbeing of local people requires us to understand, and can act on, what really matters to them; this report will really help us to work with our GP practices and further improve services to patients.
“We look forward to working with Healthwatch Birmingham, patients and other local organisations on delivering the practical and helpful recommendations highlighted in the report.”
Jayne Salter-Scott, Head of Communications and Engagement at NHS Sandwell & West Birmingham Commissioning Group said: “Patients are at the heart of everything we do in the CCG, and we actively encourage everyone to get involved. The Sandwell and West Birmingham patients, public partners and communities are crucial in developing and shaping healthcare services.
“We look forward to working with Healthwatch Birmingham, Birmingham and Solihull CCG, patients and partners to improve our primary care services.”