How can you manage increased patient demand?
With NHS Digital’s own statistics demonstrating a 40% increase in the number of appointments delivered, we know that you are providing more care than ever before. In addition, unless you transfer your e-consultations to the appointment book, these will represent additional work. At the same time you are receiving a battering from the media. Who thought we would be grateful for a “fuel crisis”, was it you who started the rumour?
People talk about managing demand; this is hard. Practices are employing tactics to try and stem the flow, such as reducing the opening times or even closing their e-consultation services. Their hope, that making it a little harder to access the practice will mean that the care need will disappear. Because care is free at the point of use, practices cannot employ some of the commercial tactics such as offering a reduced price on off-peak services to flatten the curve on peak demand or short-term price rises until demand steadies. It is even becoming difficult to build in a clinically appropriate delay. Amazon Prime has a lot to answer for when it comes to the expectation of instant gratification.
The biggest impact lays not in managing the demand but in managing your practice’s response to the demand. I absolutely understand this is not easy. It will take dedicated time and support to achieve. However, this time should be seen as an investment in your people – patients and team. It is possible to have more positive conversations with patients even if you are unable to offer them the thing that they originally wanted.
Here are my top five tips for achieving this:
1. Ensure that a consistent message is agreed and shared by all. This message should be consistent on all communication channels – website, telephone message and within the way the team handle requests.
2. Adopt a person-centred approach across the practice. When humans are, and importantly feel heard, they will be more accepting of the options that are offered to them.
3. Once you truly understand the patient’s need they can be signposted to the most appropriate service. This might well be an appointment at the practice, within the Primary Care Network (PCN) or indeed an external service.
4. Support your team to remain well themselves. How on earth can you care for someone else if you need care yourself?
5. Seek to understand your populations needs and adapt the service to meet them.
Do not forget yourself when considering point 4. If you yourself are feeling the pressure, are highly stressed or even burnt out you are going to be challenged to lead such a fundamental change.
We understand it is tough out there, our facilitators are supporting practices across the country. We would like to help you. If you are reading this and feel affinity for the challenge, setup a no obligation call with one of our team. We want to understand your challenge so that we can make the most appropriate offer of support.