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Your spotlight on local services

GPs take on board our findings


When undertaking a survey of local residents’ views of their local health and social care services, we asked an open question: "What areas of health and social care should we look into next year?". 27% of you told us the ability to access GP services was a struggle.

To learn more about the issue, Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham undertook a project to understand the problems and barriers local people face from a solution-focused perspective. We held a number of focus groups, undertook pop up engagement sessions, and gained feedback through a survey.

During the course of this project, we have received feedback from 250 residents and spoken to all of the GPs in Barking & Dagenham. Both GPs and local people made note of the importance of notifying the GP if appointments are no longer required, recognising that no-shows cost the practice time and money. Furthermore, both GPs and local people also shared concerns about patients taking up urgent appointment slots simply to have letters written by their GP.

Our research found that, while most people are happy with the services they receive from the GP, there are areas where small changes could bring some needed improvement.

Some of our findings include:

  • A lack of privacy within waiting rooms in the practice.
  • Some patients were aware that they could book a double appointment to discuss more than one issue, others were not.
  • Variation not only between practices, but also between GPs within a practice. While some GPs are happy to discuss more than one health issue, others limit the number of problems that patients can discuss, resulting in patients booking multiple appointments in order to discuss their health needs holistically.
  • For many patients, their preferred option was to book an appointment over the phone. However, it was evident that getting through to the practice on the phone was a challenge: 27% waited less than 5 minutes 34% waited over 10 minutes 16% had to redial.
  • The majority (77%) of the people we spoke with described their GP as either good or excellent. 81% of patients we spoke to described their nurse as excellent or good.
  • Variation in the way practices provide and respond to urgent care appointments. For example, evidence from local patients shows that a ‘walk-in service’ for urgent appointments works for some patients, but for others having to wait in the practice for two hours can be challenging due to work commitments.

Our recommendations were based on the findings and have been acknowledge by the Clinical Commissioning Group. We will be meeting with the chair soon and will keep you updated with our progress. 

Our findings also show that GPs and practice staff have a far better understanding of the role of Healthwatch and are more willing to discuss solutions to the problems universally experienced at and by their practices which impact negatively on patient experience.

Individual practices have also taken action on some of the recommendations we made through some of the nine enter and views undertaken as part of the project. 

Recommendations for practices included:

  • Improvements to patient access to privacy in waiting areas.
  • Giving patients the option to talk about more than one issue per appointment by booking a double appointment.
  • Communication on urgent care services.
  • Solving the issue of busy phone lines for urgent or routine appointments.


GP project report


Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham
Lifeline House
25 Neville Road
Dagenham, Essex RM8 3QS