Mystery Shopping Report: Greenwich GP surgeries telephone waiting times

We called all GP surgeries in Greenwich to find out their average telephone waiting times

The impact of not being able to get through on the phone can be profound. People who rely on prescription medication to manage their condition, and don’t or can’t use an app to reorder it, face having to do without. Others feel that they have no choice if they need a same-day GP appointment but to go A&E to see a medical professional because they can’t always get through on the phone to their GP practice, or if they do – they can’t always get a same day appointment.

Our monthly feedback reports in 2021 have seen a growing increase in reports from Greenwich residents finding it difficult to get through to GP practices on the telephone.

Accessing GP surgeries is consistently selected as a top cause of concern for many service users. Many report extensive waits on the line – and others just give up trying to get through, leaving them frustrated and anxious.

“It’s a reflection of the system. A few years ago, it was quite straight forward. You make one call and got an appointment within a few days. These days, no one answers the phone, and the online thing is hit and miss”
— Greenwich Service User

Methodology:

How and when was this exercise carried out?

  • We requested a list of practices in each Primary Care Network area from SEL CCG Primary Care (Greenwich)
  • Using this list, we visited the website of each practice to find the telephone number
  • We called each practice to find out how long it takes to speak to a staff member
  • We called practices on different times and dates over a period of 6-8 weeks, completing in November 2021
  • Most practices were called on three occasions

Limitations

  • A higher volume of calls and longer wait times is common during ‘peak hours’, for example on Monday mornings before 10am. Our volunteers phoned on a range of days and times, but not during peak hours.
  • There were several changes in Eltham PCN during 2020 which may have affected call wait times.

A big thank you to Healthwatch Greenwich volunteers

Volunteers play a vital role at Healthwatch Greenwich in helping people share their views and experiences and taking part in our research projects.

Thank you to the Public Health students at the University of Greenwich who were responsible for supporting us with this Mystery Shopping report:

  • Joke o Fakehinde
  • Felix Ohenhen Isokpunwu
  • Saroja Limbu
  • Ugochi Ijoma
  • Osebimu (Sebby) Amanerimi

Key findings

  • Overall, call waiting times were short. Across all practices, the call waiting time range was from 1 minute to 36 minutes (not including uncontactable practices)
  • The overall average waiting time across all practices is 6 minutes
  • Two practices were uncontactable 

What are the next steps?

Healthwatch was established in 2013 in accordance with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Within this legislation, Healthwatch has a right to a reply within 20 working days to Reports and Recommendations submitted by Local Healthwatch to a service provider/commissioner.

Healthwatch Greenwich sent a copy of this report on the 19/01/2022 to key decision makers in health and care:

  • Greenwich Local Medical Council (LMC), the clinically led independent voice of GPs in the capital.
  • South East London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)
  • North Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

Downloads

Download the full report and the response from the CCG and LMC below

Mystery Shopping - Telephone Waiting Times for GP Surgeries in Greenwich
Response Form from the LMC

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