Doctors' surgeries in Gwent improve access for patients
MORE than half of Gwent's GP surgeries have now achieved a top rating for ease of access by patients, under a scheme launched last year.
The A is for Access scheme awards surgeries with 'A' or 'B' ratings for access, based on five criteria measuring opening hours, telephone availability, and ease of booking an appointment.
Twenty-seven out of 91 practices were awarded 5A status at the first audit for the scheme in January 2012.
That number had increased to 41 by last July, and now stands at 46 out of 90 practices.
The increase mirrors a general improvement across Wales in patients' access to GP surgeries.
The issue of lack of access, or lack of flexibility in access for patients who work during all or most of a surgery's core opening hours has been given a high priority by the Assembly, and the A is for Access scheme in Gwent is Aneurin Bevan Health Board's response.
Other health boards are looking at implementing similar schemes, but it was unique in Wales when launched last year.
The scheme relates only to access to appointments, and is not an indicator of the quality of clinical or other services provided.
Surgeries are awarded 'A' ratings for achieving each of the following criteria: Opens on or before 8am with a first appointment at 8.30am or earlier; open during lunchtime; last routine doctor appointment is 5.50pm or later; telephone access directly to a member of staff (not a recorded message) available 8am-6.30pm; patients can book an appointment during one telephone call, without having to call back, or may book an appointment online.
Not all practices meet qualifying requirement for for the 'A' ratings because the yhave at least one half -day closure. Access standards are still reported in such cases, but based on 'B' ratings.
A GP access audit for the Welsh Goverment revealed that fewer surgeries close for lunch in Gwent now than they did in 2011.
While the staffing arrangements at some surgeries make it difficult to attain 5A status, particularly for single-handed practices, health bosses believe there remains much room for improvement in making it easier for patients to get an appointment.