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Health education material in GP waiting rooms often ‘outdated’, study finds

23 October 2018

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There is a ‘substantial variety’ of health education material on offer in GP waiting rooms, and the material is often ‘outdated and poorly presented’, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of Brighton analysed responses from over 500 patients, who completed a questionnaire anonymously, across 19 practices in Brighton and Hove. 
The study, first published in the British Journal of General Practice, found that around 78% of respondents ‘normally notice posters and leaflets’ in GP waiting rooms.
According to a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, ‘the GP contract only requires practices to provide a practice leaflet’.
‘Poor utilisation of resources’
Waiting rooms had on average 72 posters on 23 different topics, and 53 leaflets covering 24 topics. Much of this material was ‘outdated and poorly presented’, the study concluded.
The researchers ‘noted a large amount of out-of-date information, blank displays, duplicated posters, closed leaflets pinned to noticeboards, out-of-use television screens, posters targeted at staff, and other poor utilisation of resources.’ 
Only half of the practices in the study had a TV screen in their waiting area, ‘despite substantial evidence that educational videos in the waiting room lead to positive outcomes’, the report said.
Absence of designated person
The study revealed variation between practices when it came to choosing a person to be in charge of updating material in the waiting area.
The report said: ‘The person most commonly responsible for reviewing and updating health education materials was the practice manager (57.9%).
Others responsible included administrative staff, patient participation groups, healthcare assistants, commercial leaflet companies, GPs, nurses, and “nobody”.’
Make better use of technology 
After finding that, in one practice, no one was in charge of updating educational material in the waiting room and that many practices did not have a particular member of staff  in charge of this, the researchers suggested that practices should assign a person to be responsible for the task. 
The researchers also suggested that practices should make better use of technology to widen access to health education material.
The initiative to introduce wifi in general practices was put forward in the study as an ‘opportunity’ to update the waiting room area.
According to NHS Digital, 6,612 (86%) of GP practices in England have NHS wifi – with the service reaching more than 50.5 million patients.
Most of the health education material available in waiting rooms was produced by national or local charities and organisations. Only a few practices produced their own material.
Consequently, practices could not always be held responsible for the quality of these items, the researchers commented.
The report suggested that closer collaboration between the external providers of education material and GP practices might contribute to patients receiving more high quality information.
However, as the researchers acknowledged, the current pressures on general practice makes it unlikely that this will be high on GP surgeries’ list of priorities.

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