Appointment times

Up until now the Strachur Practice has had open surgeries. That is, the surgery times were 9 till 10.30 and 5 till 6, and anyone turning up between these hours could wait be seen in the order that they arrived.

Open surgeries are the traditional form of General Practice, and have the advantages of simplicity and ease of access. Basically, you turn up and you'll get seen...eventually. That's the disadvantage - you may need to wait a long time to be seen. Waits of over two (or even three) hours is not uncommon on busy days.

But, after eight years working in small remote practices, I'm acutely aware that the great fear of patients is that an appointment system will mean having to wait days or even weeks to see the doctor - a great problem for larger surgeries in cities and towns*.

Thankfully, there is another way to run small surgery appointment systems which combines the best of both worlds. I've set up four such systems in the past for Highland Health Board in remote practices similar to Strachur and they all worked very well.

The idea is that you phone the practice first to be told our best guess as to when you will be seen. This avoids the long waits and uncertainty, lets people plan their day better, and is great for people who have to get friends or family to bring them to the surgery.

Photo: The kind of queue we want to avoid

Of course, the appointment times are only estimates - medicine is complex, and sometimes we need to spend longer than average with patients, or there may be an emergency that can't wait, but the important thing is that you won't be turned away. If you need to be seen that day, then you will.

So, from now on call us before you leave to come down and we'll tell you what time to come down. If you want to arrange a time for later on (up to several weeks in advance) then let us know and we will give you one of several 'available in advance' appointment slots. If you prefer, come to the surgery as before, and we can tell you roughly when you will be seen, so you can go and do your shopping, or whatever else takes your fancy, in the meantime.

Of course, if you prefer the old system, you can still turn up and wait in the waiting room and catch up on the local gossip.

*In fact the larger city and town practices are getting much better at seeing patients sooner (not least because they now get paid a bonus for doing so in the new contract).