GP bookings: change is needed
15th August 2023
After being flooded with stories of your GP appointment booking nightmares, STAMMA is pushing to make systems more accessible for people who stammer.
Earlier this year, a member told us they were struggling to make a GP appointment because of a stammering-unfriendly booking system.
We wondered if this was a one-off, so we surveyed our members and asked for their experiences. The results show that lots of you are finding booking appointments with your doctor really difficult.
Between January and June 2023, over 300 members responded to our survey, and it uncovered disconcerting insights:
- Over two thirds of all respondents, 68%, reported they can only book a GP appointment using the phone. The telephone of course being a source of anxiety for many who stammer.
- 41% of people who stammer reported they find it 'very difficult' using the phone to book an appointment. This compares with 23% of people who don't stammer.
- 54% of people who stammer experienced mental distress around using the phone to make appointments.
People answering the survey reported they had been hung up on, misunderstood, rushed, laughed at, or simply not given enough time to explain their needs. This led some to delay making appointments or even avoid them altogether, which has impacted their health.
Since sharing the survey results with our members last week, lots of you have emailed us with similar experiences at your local clinic:
- "I just wanted to scream 'Why are you making it so hard for me?!"'
- "Endless waiting in the phone queue and being cut off because I can't speak quick enough or the auto machine doesn't understand me. I've just given up trying now!"
- "I have had a prescription for a controlled drug for the past 5 years. Every year I have to have a review and this year the pharmacist has added a note to my prescription saying 'speech was slow, CHECK BEFORE ISSUING'. I am now worried that I will lose access to my prescription."
In our 2023 poll of a representative sample of over 6,000 UK adults, 1.8% said they stammer. That's an average of 75 registered adult patients who stammer for each GP surgery!
We want to stress that this is not an attack on the NHS, which is amazing and something to be proud of and celebrated. However, healthcare is a basic right that everyone should have access to, and our surveys found that's currently not the case.
This needs to change
So, we are pushing for nationwide changes to GP appointment booking systems. GP surgeries need to review their systems and provide staff training around stammering and disfluency.
What we need is:
- Flexible appointment booking channels so that people have the choice to call or use an alternative channel.
- Training for receptionists so they can engage with disfluent callers.
- The implementation of opt-in patient record flags for people who stammer. This way, when someone phones up, the system automatically tells the receptionist that the caller stammers.
Keep up to date with campaign developments on our Making GP Bookings Accessible campaign page.