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Research and Projects

PenCHORD - Optimising GP Appointment Policies at Ivybridge Health Centre

Who is involved?

Theme: Evidence for Policy and Practice
Status: Live


At Ivybridge Health Centre, Beacon Medical Group currently uses a hybrid system for booking GP appointments, including a mixture of a “Doctor First” system (in which patients are telephone triaged by a doctor who decides whether the patient needs an appointment the same day), and a pre-booking system (in which patients pre-book an appointment). 

Staff at the Health Centre have raised concerns that the current hybrid model is sub-optimal, and that it would be beneficial to adopt a consistent system across all patients. However, it is unclear which system to adopt, or whether either would be an improvement on the current hybrid system.

To help with this decision, PenCHORD is exploring the potential impact of three different GP appointment scheduling policies at Ivybridge Health Centre, to find out which way of working is likely to promote reduced waits for GP appointments and more appointments with patients’ own GP.

Project aims

Specifically, this project seeks to answer the following questions:

1. What would be the impact on waiting time for a GP appointment, probability of a patient seeing their own doctor and GP utilisation rates if Ivybridge Health Centre adopted:

  • a. A “Doctor First” triage system for all patients?
  • b. A pre-book appointment system for all patients?     

2. How would each of the above compare to the current hybrid model?

3. What could be the potential impact if a percentage of those patients who could be seen by the community pharmacist were seen by the pharmacist instead of a GP?

Project activity

The project team will develop a simulation model of the current hybrid appointment system at Ivybridge Health Centre. They will then amend the model to test the different scenarios outlined above and investigate what impact these potential scenarios would have.

The prediction from the model, and the team’s recommendations for the optimal appointment system to use based on the modelling evidence, will be presented to Beacon Medical Group at the end of the project. 

Anticipated impact

It is hoped that the evidence from this project will be used directly to inform the Centre’s decision about whether to switch to a pre-book only system, a “Doctor First” only system, or to keep the current hybrid model.

Uncertainty around optimum GP appointment allocation policies is a widespread issue for the health service both locally and nationally. There is therefore potential for the findings from this project to generate insights into optimising appointment policies in primary care that could be of use more widely.

The project team also hope to publish a paper on the model’s findings that could inform future research. 

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Beacon Medical Group
Dr David Gwynne
Ms Claire Oatway