Frequently Asked Questions
Why can't I get an appointment to see my own doctor when I want?
General practice has changed considerably in recent years and continues to do so at an ever-increasing rate. An ageing, growing population, the dramatic rise in the number of patients with chronic health problems related to obesity and other lifestyle choices, together with patients being seen by their Doctor with conditions formally dealt with by hospitals has placed a growing burden upon practices.
In the last year we saw 39,413 patients in the surgery.
Despite the headlines in the press about how well Doctors are paid, practice funding has decreased in real terms in each of the past 4 years and therefore we have to operate differently to maintain services. We always have enough appointments overall but if patients want to see a specific Doctor they may find difficulty in obtaining one. We recognise the value in patients having a usual Doctor and we are committed to continuing with this for as long as possible within a system that makes it increasingly difficult to maintain.
Patients can book routine appointments several weeks in advance but we have to ensure that we retain the balance in favour of patients who become ill suddenly and need to be seen sooner. We will always see urgent cases on the day and have a duty Doctor.
It's not always necessary to actually see your Doctor - you can ask them to telephone you or you can leave a message either by telephone or online.
Why does the receptionist ask me what I want to see the doctor for?
The Doctors have asked the receptionist to ask patients if they would like to volunteer what the appointment is for so that we can direct them to the appropriate service as it is not always necessary to see a Doctor. It may be more appropriate to be seen by our practice nurse, health care assistant or your concern may be able to be dealt with over the telephone.
My doctor recently retired / left. Why didn't you write to tell me?
Increasingly doctors no longer stay with one practice for the whole of their career and when they do, the may take breaks to have children / raise a family of change their working pattern. Current NHS practice is to keep patients informed through websites, newsletters and posters. Another national change in recent years has been to officially register patients with a practice rather than an individual doctor, allowing patients the freedom to see a doctor of their choice.
Why isn't the surgery open at the weekends in case of emergencies?
Weekend and overnight cover is provided by Practice Plus Group on Call and NHS 111.
Why do you close for training?
Many practices close for training. During this time Practice Plus Group on Call provides cover. This enables clinicians and staff to meet and plan services and share learning which leads to greater patient safety and improved services. This is a national initiative.
Why do I sometimes find it difficult to get through on the telephone to book an appointment?
Most calls will be received in the first hour of opening in the morning and during that time there will be a wait to get through. We have as many staff as possible dealing with calls during this time and are constantly reviewing demand to tailor our staffing requirements to the number of patients calling.
Why is it sometimes difficult to find a parking space?
We recognise that at times the car park becomes busy and we advise patients to arrive before their appointment time if they wish to secure parking. We also try to stagger surgeries throughout the day in order to spread the demand for parking. In the past we have approached the local authority for permission to use our rear garden for additional parking however this has been refused on planning grounds. Our surgery in Beer is open 5 days a week, with an adjacent council controlled car-park.
Why can't you give me information about a family member?
Whilst is it vital for the proper care of the individuals, it is also important that patients and their carers can trust that personal information will be kept confidential and their privacy respected.
All staff have an obligation to safeguard the confidentiality of personal information, This is governed by law, their contracts of employment and in many cases, professional code of conduct. All staff are aware that a breach of confidentiality could be a matter for disciplinary action and provides grounds for a complaint against them.
Why do you sometimes charge fees?
Many GP’s are not employed by the NHS; they are independent businesses who hold contracts for their work with the National Health Service, but this only pays us for general practice work. For non-NHS work, such as insurance medicals, we are not reimbursed by the NHS, hence a fee has to be charged to cover the costs of this work. In recent years, more and more organisations have been involving doctors in a whole range of non-medical work. Even if you only require a Doctor’s signature, it is a condition of their remaining on the medical register, that they only sign what they know to be true. In order to complete even the simplest form, therefore, the Doctor may need to check the patient’s entire medical record. Carelessness or an inaccurate report can have serious consequences for the Doctor with the General Medical Council (The Doctors regulatory body) or even the police. We do though understand that this may cause difficulties and strive to charge the minimum necessary for this work.
Why can't I get a shotgun licence through my GP any more?
In light of changes to the firearms certification process following the Keyham shootings, which place more responsibility on the GP to certify someone is fit to hold a shotgun license, we have decided we are no longer able to offer this private service. We would suggest you contact the BASC (https://basc.org.uk/basc-medical-panels/) who can signpost you to an appropriately qualified doctor at a reasonable price. Please note that we are happy to send a copy of the relevant medical records, but this needs to be requested by and sent directly to the doctor, not to the patient according to the rules laid out by Devon & Cornwall Police. We will not charge for providing these records.
You can also contact ShootCert regarding shot gun licenses who will assist you if you require a certificate. Please visit www.shootcert.co.uk for more information.