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Elderly patients at Skipton GP practice let down by controversial online booking system

Friday, 8 March 2024 16:16

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors say they want to grill health leaders at Modality, which runs Skipton’s Fisher Medical Centre, after describing how elderly patients are continuing to struggle with a controversial new online booking system.

Modality Partnership runs more than 50 GP surgeries across the country including Fisher Medical Centre on Coach Street as well as Silsden Surgery and Steeton Health Centre.

But since introducing the booking system in April last year they’ve faced complaints from older and vulnerable patients who have found it difficult to use.

Modality said it had “no choice” to bring in the online system due to the sheer volume of telephone calls it was getting.

It’s estimated around 80% of patients now use the online service. Patients can still telephone their GP practice who will complete the online form on their behalf.

The company was unable to send a representative to a meeting of Skipton and Ripon councillors yesterday so instead sent a report that outlined the changes they’ve made.

This disappointed Cllr Robert Heseltine (Conservative and Independents Group, Skipton East & South) who said he uses he wants to “look them in the eyes” and grill them on what has been going wrong.

Cllr Heseltine said: “The report we have is like a publicity press release from Modality about how brilliant they are. As a customer of theirs, I know how brilliant they are…not. We need to question them and put them on the rack.”

Cllr Andy Brown (Green Party, Aire Valley) said he had heard of three elderly patients going to the Fisher Medical Centre “exasperated” after failing to book an appointment online.

The chair of the meeting, Cllr Richard Foster (Conservative, Wharfedale), said the current system “is not functioning” and proposed that councillors invite a senior figure from Modality to the next meeting on June 6.

Cllr Philip Barrett (Independent, Glusburn, Cross Hills & Sutton-in-Craven) said there were benefits to the new booking system but it was the older generation who were mainly finding it difficult to use.

He said: “When they come in June we want to know what they’ve done to improve things. Things have to change. The elderly are stuck on the phone waiting and waiting.”

In the report, Modality said it is providing 20% more appointments each week than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its report said: “To make sure we utilise the precious capacity we have available in the most efficient and effective way, we have implemented this new way of working to allocate care to patient based on medical need, rather than want. In making this change we have been able to dramatically improve our on the day acute care for patients, which resulted in a 2.4% reduction in our patients attending A&E within the first 3 months of implementation.

“However, this change has resulted in us needing to manage the expectation of those patients needing to wait longer for a routine care. This change in process and higher demand has led to frustration for patients and a reduced patient satisfaction with GP access. Although on average a patient waiting for a routine appointment is seen within two weeks, we acknowledge that at busy times there can be up to a four week wait. We continue to innovate and transform our processes to maximise capacity to provide a consistent wait time for routine care of between one to two weeks.”

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