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Patient power

24 April 2015

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Holycroft Surgery in West Yorkshire has attracted much deserved media attention over the years off the back of its hard work behind the scenes and with its patients

Holycroft Surgery in Keighley, West Yorkshire has created programmes and implemented initiatives that have drawn admiration from neighbouring practices.

Being only one of three GP practices in England to have received a customer service excellence standard for its commitment to high-quality patient service, it’s no wonder the surgery received a visit from health minister Dr Daniel Poulter recently.

Practice manager Andy Haigh, reveals how the practice has become a focal point in the community it serves.

One of the practice’s most prominent achievements is its patient participation group (PPG).

Haigh explains: “The group is really active. About four to six times a year we have patient council events where the PPG will come in for a week and they’ll set display tables relating to different illnesses. The group will acquire resources and information to distribute, or they’ll fill in questionnaires with patients.

“Sometimes the PPG will come in and supervise patients using the blood pressure machine and try and encourage them to get involved in their own healthcare. We do a lot of self-care and health promotions alongside our patient participation group (PPG).”

The PPG has proved popular with the practice’s patients. Formed of about 12-15 patients, many were brought in due to their passion for practice improvements.

“I’ve recruited a few people when they’ve complained about something or some have just phoned and asked to join. For the last three years we’ve done a patient council week where the PPG comes in, and instead of promoting healthcare they actually promote the group and then more people have joined,” he said.

But it’s the healthcare that is at the forefront of the practice’s and PPG’s minds. The practice is keen to ensure it was getting information across to all of Keighley’s communities.

Haigh admits that Holycroft had previously missed a segment of its population and sought a way to fill the void. It came in the form of a virtual group that is only contacted via email.

“People who can’t get into meetings or who don’t want to spend time in the practice can have their view heard with this process.
“We probably send out an email two or three times a year and we have about 45 people on the list.

“What this has enabled us to do is access the hard to reach groups, such as people who work. We have also found that members of the Asian community don’t want to come in – particularly Asian women. So the virtual group filled that gap.

“Although, we now do have an Asian lady who comes to all the PPG meetings. We also have an eastern European lady who is a member of the PPG. Now we feel a bit more representative of the community.”

The community in Keighley is central to the practice. Aware of its growing population of residents from overseas, Haigh and the practice realised it was important to actively reach out to other communities.

“We have worked with the Bangladeshi Association for quite a while and now we are working with a charity linked to the eastern European community.

“We have an increasing eastern European population in Keighley and we asked the charity – Lilies of the Valley – what the healthcare needs of this community are. One thing we’ve recognised is we don’t really understand their culture.”

The outcomes “amazed” Haigh and his team when they realised that the community was concerned about teeth and headlice. Undeterred, Holycroft set about to bridge the healthcare gap between the two communities.

“We displayed a massive pair of teeth and had information translated into different languages. We also handed out free headlice combs.

“Hopefully we’ll start to understand the culture and they’ll start to understand the way that a GP practice works and that will help us work together. It’s about trying to engage with that community.”

From the connection with the charity, Holycroft also took on a Polish nurse for a six-week work experience placement. “She supported our nurses and spent a bit of time supporting reception; we were trying to help her with her English,” he says.  

Correspondence is an area that creates mountains of paperwork for any organisation, not just GP surgeries, but the team at Holycroft has found a way to tackle the paper problem.

A patient liaison team was implemented two years ago and the practice has never looked back. “The team manages all the correspondence. The GPs rarely see letters or electronic mail. The team will scan letters in the system on the same day its received so that it’s safe, then they’ll code everything. After this they read the letters/emails and action anything that needs to be done. Anything clinically heavy will of course be sent to one of the GPs.

“The team also proactively rings the patients to tell them about medication changes, book them appointments and deal with referrals. For me, ringing the patients back is the exciting bit.” The results are something that the Keighley practice is proud of. The patient liaison team turns 3,500-4,000 letters a month into 100 tasks to a pharmacist and about 30 tasks to GPs. It is estimated the team deals with on average 90-95% of the correspondence.

“Before we had GPs doing things differently and now it’s consistent. The team also picks up on recurring trends and reports back to me.

“It’s brilliant and we have even had other practices ask us for advice on how they can implement the system – we’ll happily share,” he says.

Having already received a customer service excellence standard, Holycroft now has a National Research Award to add to its list of accolades.

Haigh explains the practice’s route when entering into the awards. He says: “We recognised that fourth year medical students have to produce a research project as part of their course. And we found out we could submit possible projects for them to study.

“We submitted a project on social prescribing. So we co-opted some interest from other practices in the area and we submitted a project on social prescribing and its impact on diabetic care. We then submitted this project to Leeds University. Two students picked our project and have now completed it. Myself and the chair of the PPG worked together to manage the students for 18 months until the project was completed.”

Given the practice’s close links with the community it’s no surprise it has developed a strong working relationship with Kris Hopkins, an MP in Keighley.

On his suggestion Dr Daniel Poulter (health minister) paid a well-deserved visit to the practice. Covered by local media, Haigh says that they spoke with Poulter about the practices initiatives as well as problems that GP surgeries are facing.  

“We talked about things like the Better Care Fund [formerly the Integration Transformation Fund] and how that would be used locally.

“The GP recruitment problem was also discussed. We are a training practice and we have lots of links to universities. We talked about our plans to get foundation year two doctors in as part of their training to try and steer them to a career in GP practice.”

Haigh and his team took the opportunity to cover problems that GP practices are coming across but on the whole the practice is pushing forward.

An award, a ‘gold-standard’ for customer service and a passion for creating a welcoming environment for its patients, has put Holycroft on the map.

The numbers speak for themselves and the relationship with the community is constantly being worked on. Holycroft surgery is always striving to better itself for the patients, after all, as Haigh says: “It’s all about patient care.”