Sheringham Medical Practice overcomes negative patient feedback with extensive staff training

Healthcare assistant Lisa Simmons, who has won an apprenticeship award, taking the blood pressure of

Healthcare assistant Lisa Simmons, who has won an apprenticeship award, taking the blood pressure of Sheringham Medical Practice patient Liz Withington. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

An efficient, happy and well qualified workforce is the key to patient satisfaction, according to Sheringham Medical Practice manager Pauline Craske.

The Cromer Road centre, which was the focus of negative feedback, including a Facebook petition, after the introduction of a telephone triage system a few years ago, has embarked on an extensive training programme which has seen all 40 of its staff members sign up for courses.

Receptionists and dispensary staff are working towards NVQ qualifications in customer service, while medical secretaries have completed diplomas in medical administration, nurse Julie Sterry is studying for a degree in advanced nursing practice and, earlier this month, healthcare assistant Lisa Simmons won the Great Yarmouth College apprenticeship award for clinical healthcare support.

Mrs Craske says steps taken by the centre to improve patient satisfaction are reaping rewards, with an NHS survey published three months ago showing across the board improvements, and the results of an in-house survey also looking positive.

'There was significant improvement in virtually all areas,' Mrs Craske said. 'And the critical 'would you recommend us' question showed a really encouraging increase from 59 percent to 70 percent.'

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In spite of having one of the highest levels of 48-hour appointment demand in the county, the practice, which has nearly 10,000 patients on its books, offers more than 70 percent of patients access to a doctor or nurse within two days, Mrs Craske added.

The triage system, under which patients receive a return call from a doctor who assesses them over the phone before deciding on the best course of treatment, had also become accepted by the majority of patients, with the knock-on effect of a drastic reduction in missed appointments – from up to 30 a week, to just a handful.

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And as well as becoming a training practice for future GPs, the centre has taken on more staff, with a new woman doctor due to start next month.

'I think we have learned from the feedback we have received and, as well as tweaking the system so that people can now pre-book appointments, we have strived to ensure that our support team are always polite, friendly and professional and we are constantly looking at ways to improve and develop their skills,' Mrs Craske said.

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