New leaflet on GP access in Bedfordshire heavily criticised for 'missing the mark by a country mile'

Will important healthcare messages 'be seen, let alone read?'

By Euan Duncan
Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 5:52 pm

Leaflets designed to improve GP access in Bedfordshire "miss the mark by a country mile" because of a lack of clarity and being delivered with junk mail, such as pizza company offers and supermarket promotions, a meeting heard.

The leaflets were delivered to households this month to pass on important healthcare messages to residents, Central Bedfordshire Council's social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee was told.

Director of primary care at the BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group Nicky Poulain said: "The leaflets were due to be sent out last week, a house leaflet drop to everyone in the county.

The leaflet sent out to all homes

"The other important group for us is the GP access improvement group because there's a whole plethora of issues around some practices which are struggling with people getting through to GPs."

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker recalled the leaflet explaining how to access your GP arriving with one advertising a new Lidl supermarket in the town.

"Like many residents, I think I read the Lidl material and didn't look at this one," she said.

"Looking through this leaflet, it misses the mark by a country mile. 'Help us help you and your family to stay well' isn't going to get me to read it.

"If it says: 'Do you need to see your doctor? This is how you do it' ... I'm going to open it and read it.

"Even the front cover doesn't tell me what's inside. It doesn't tell me how to access my GP or ask: 'Do you really need to see your GP? You could also access all these other people'.

"There's lots of information about wellbeing. We're not addressing the problem at all. We're just talking around the issue."

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion, who chairs the committee, said: "I'm afraid I must agree with all of that.

"Were you expecting the leaflet to address something else? Or was it about: 'Dear resident, this is how you can access your primary care'."

Ms Poulain replied: "The leaflet has been co-produced by system partners.

"It's my communications team which have worked with Healthwatch. The feedback from yourselves is critical.

"I'm very aware this leaflet has been co-produced from all of the communications teams in all four local authorities, as well as Healthwatch."

Conservative Sandy councillor Tracy Stock, who's the executive member for health, wellbeing and communities, suggested arranging a meeting between herself and Ms Poulain to discuss the pressure on GPs.

"I agree with what said about the leaflet," she told the committee. "I wasn't aware of the leaflet being put together, which is a shame."

Councillor Versallion referred to the health system needing a dose of the reality check of normal people telling their elected members what the experience is actually like.

"It's deeply frustrating the leaflet hasn't been run past elected councillors, not even the executive member of Central Bedfordshire," he explained.

"If only to give yourself an an organisation a bit of top cover before we spend taxpayers money making yet another leaflet which goes in with the pizza company leaflet and therefore doesn't get seen, let alone read.

"As a system the CCG and its GP practices aren't in touch with the reality of residents' experiences.

"I don't feel good about today's exchange or the fact that things will improve quickly. It's deeply frustrating."