Healthwatch Bucks recently conducted a snapshot survey to find out about people’s experiences of booking a doctor’s appointment by phone.

Our online questionnaire asked Bucks resident to give us their feedback on:

  • What kind of phone they used last time they called to make a doctor’s appointment
  • How long they had to wait for their call to be answered
  • How worried they are about the financial cost of staying on hold with their surgery
  • How satisfied they feel with the current process for booking doctor’s appointments
  • How they would prefer to make appointments in future.

Making an appointment

Almost 78% of our survey respondents organised their last doctor’s appointment by phone. 12% did so by popping into the practice, while 10% made their appointments online.

More than half (58%) of people who made doctor’s appointments by phone did so using a contract mobile. A third (33%) used a landline, while 8% used pay as you go mobile phones.

Waiting for calls to be answered

People who took part in our survey had different experiences of waiting for their calls to be answered.

  • 9% of respondents said their calls were answered in under five minutes.
  • 14% said they got through in under fifteen minutes, while a further 22% said their calls were answered in less than thirty minutes.
  • 14% reported that it took up to forty-five minutes for their call to be answered, while 18% said it took up to an hour.
  • 21% of people who responded to the survey said it took more than an hour for their call to be answered by their GP surgery.

While they waited for their calls to be answered, 95% of people were informed of their position in the call queue. 4% were given information on how long they might have to wait, 20% reported that they had the option to request a call back later and 14% were offered information on their surgery’s online appointment booking system.

In addition, two thirds of survey respondents (67%) said they had been cut off while in the call queue for a doctor’s appointment.

How satisfied do people feel?

Only a quarter of people who participated in our survey said they were ‘very satisfied’ (5%) or ‘fairly satisfied’ (20%) with the current process for booking appointments with their doctor.

20% described themselves as ‘fairly dissatisfied’, while 52% said they were ‘very dissatisfied’.

People’s preferences

We asked people who took part in our survey to rank three different ways to book doctor’s appointments in order of preference. These were: by phone, online and in person.

  • Overall, booking appointments by phone was the most popular method.
  • Online and in person appointment booking were ranked second and third respectively.
  • However, 78% of survey respondents said that the prospect of waiting on hold had put them off trying to make a doctor’s appointment.

Healthwatch Bucks comment

Zoe McIntosh, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Bucks, says:

The results of this snapshot survey highlight some of the same issues people tell us about over the phone, at public events and through our website’s feedback centre. For many Buckinghamshire residents, it seems booking a doctor’s appointment can be both time consuming and frustrating, involving long wait times and even the risk of being cut off.

This is especially worrying for those people who rely on pay as you go mobile phones for making appointments. In the context of the cost of living crisis, an individual’s concern about the financial cost of staying on hold could prevent them from accessing the healthcare they need.

It’s clear that most GP surgeries are working to manage people’s expectations when they phone for an appointment, often by letting them know their position in the call queue or even by offering the chance to request a call back later. However, overall satisfaction with appointment booking is low. Improved communication with patients who want to book appointments, and the provision of more information about how best to do so, might help to alleviate this.

It’s also concerning that 78% of the people who responded to our survey have been put off trying to make a doctor’s appointment by the prospect of waiting on hold. This underlines the risk that negative perceptions can themselves become barriers to healthcare. Again, GP practices could tackle this through improved dialogue with patients and clearer communication about what people can expect when they phone up. We understand that many Bucks GP practices are implementing a new cloud-based telephony system and hope that this improves the experience of residents when telephoning for an appointment.

When did the survey take place?

The online survey opened on Wednesday 30 November and closed on Wednesday 14 December 2022.

It was promoted in the Healthwatch Bucks email newsletter and on our social media channels.

Who took part in the survey?

The people who took part in our survey were from a variety of age groups, from 18-25 years of age to 86 years and over.

Most people who answered our questions (75%) were aged 46 or over.

80% of our survey respondents were women. 90% described themselves as white, while half told us they have a long-term health condition.

We have only counted the answers of people who are resident in Buckinghamshire and registered with a Buckinghamshire GP practice.

We received 128 complete responses to the survey, plus 15 partial responses.

Share your feedback

If you have experiences of health or social care that you’d like to tell us about, please visit our feedback centre where you can rate and review services, tell us your story in detail or get in touch with us.

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Published on 20 Dec, 2022

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One comment on "Snapshot survey results: what you told us about making doctor’s appointments by phone"

  • Commenter said on 22nd December 2022

    Thanks for the information. Who has the responsibility in Bucks for making dramatic improvements in the service to patients? Is anyone accountable?

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