I am in a fortunate position as the locality I reside in offers an extended hours service for GP appointments in the evenings and weekends. The service was set up last Autumn with astonishing pace befitting a military-style operation, all credit due to a handful of efficient, methodical practice managers. They opted to use the Black Pear extended hours solution (eRA) as this was able to transfer records between EMIS Web and TPP SystmOne with ease.
Recently, I discovered myself in the situation where we needed to use the service – there is a phenomenon in our family that we only ever seem to discover the need for a GP appointment on a Friday afternoon! I therefore decided to ring and request a weekend appointment. Apprehensively, I made the call. Was I going to discover that they couldn’t log in to our software? Was it going to take a ridiculous long length of time to make the appointment? Multiple possibilities of what could go wrong flooded my mind. Did I actually want to know if the service was poor? It was Friday afternoon after all … that sort of knowledge could seriously spoil a weekend.
My fears were allayed immediately. The receptionist located the patient record, allocated an appointment time, gained my consent to transfer the record and took a brief reason all within a 30 second timeframe approx. The receptionist delivered a proficient and flawless performance … I could only assume that our software had behaved immaculately. A celebratory G&T was quaffed later that evening.
Saturday arrived and as the time of the appointment approached, the doubts started to creep in. Had the appointment actually been made in the clinical system at the extended hours hub? Had the patient record been successfully transferred? After all, we had never visited the hub before so we were totally unknown to this practice. Again, any angst was quickly diminished as we entered the calm and serene atmosphere of our extended hours hub and discovered the receptionist was clearly expecting us. We were sent in to see the GP bang on time. He had our patient record open in his clinical system and was able to execute an informed consultation. The appointment generated a referral into a secondary care service, the correspondence for which we received the following week.
To summarise, we had an exceptional experience with technology working like clockwork to support the new extended hours service. The NHS has been an outstanding institution for the past 70 years which we often take for granted – we must endeavour to protect it and continue to look for new ways to assist it for the next 70.