Front of house staff crisis

Dear Patients, We would like to bring to your attention that we are currently facing a workforce crisis within our Patient Navigation (Reception) team. We have two members of staff on long-term sickness leave and two who have recently resigned. This represents a 40% loss of capacity within the team. We immediately began the recruitment

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New phone system FAQs and complaints

Dear Patients

We have recently (on the 18th Oct) changed our phone system and have received many suggestions and complaints regarding the service user experience since. We thought we would explain the technical and operational difficulties we have faced/ are facing and how we intend to rectify these.

St Paul’s Surgery has always fared well on phone accessibility and patient experience results compared to local and national comparisons.

The decision to change our phone system was led by an NHS England initiative We had to adopt certain specifications to qualify. It wouldn’t have been our preferred package choice.

Feedback we have received

  • The phone messages/ on hold music is either very loud or very quiet.

We raised this feedback with our telecom’s provider. The phone system cannot adjust the volume of the on-hold music or messages. To make our spoken practice messages clearer and more consistent in same voice, we have purchased a third-party text to speech product to create these recordings. This seems to have helped reduce patient complaints.

  • The call quality is poor. There is a delay at first.

The new phone system is VOIP (cloud based over the internet) rather than BT copper lines like our old. I’m told call quality is slightly worse due to this but should always be clear enough to have a conversation.  We note there is a poor mobile signal in Winchester so it may be the callers line rather than our own call quality. The reason why there is a delay (slight pause) in the conversation within the first few seconds of each call, is due to the automatic call recording software kicking in.  There doesn’t seem to be a fix for this.

  • Long wait times to get through on the phone

With our previous phone system, we only had 4 call queuing lines and the average wait time was 1.5 minutes. If you were the 5th + patient trying to contact us, you would have previously received an engaged tone. With our new phone system, we can call queue up to 20 patients and our current average wait time is 6 minutes. Patients feel differently about this. Some dislike getting an engaged tone and having to redial several times whereas some dislike waiting in a queue for longer. Let us know what you would prefer by completing our survey.

6 minutes is our average wait time but at peak times this could be up to 20 minutes. See data below.

  • I would like to know my position in the queue

In order to have this functionally turned on, it would cost £8,000 per year. As a Practice we find this expensive for what it offers and we would rather reinvest this ongoing expense into patient care. Having a queue position number doesn’t in fact tell you how long it will take to be answered.  It depends on how many call handlers we have on and what the callers before you wish to discuss.   

  • After a long wait I was cut off

For the first week or so there were system teething problems and staff training issues that may have resulted in dropped calls. We apologise if you were affected by this. It certainly wasn’t us deliberately hanging up which we have had accusations of.

  • If you select certain options (press 3 for test results) you were cut off

This was a system configuration issue which has now been fixed

  • The on-hold music is irritating

We may all pick a different genre if given the choice. We have gone with the free default that came with the phone system. Our aim is that you don’t have to listen to it for very long.

Call data. How and when is best to contact us for what?

This first graph shows you how many inbound calls we have received, each day over the past 3 weeks. You will notice that each week follows a similar pattern with the start of the week being the heaviest with calls. If your request is not a same day urgent, I would avoid calling on Monday or Tuesday.

This second graph shows you at what times of day the calls peak.

08:00 – 08:30  and 10:00 – 11:30 are considered our peak call times. You could be waiting in a queue up to 20 minutes at these points. If your request is not same day urgent, I would avoid calling at these times.

If your request is not a same day urgent then the best way to contact us, if you are able to, is via our Accurx online patient triage service. For more information on how to use this quick and easy system read More often than not your online request will take you less time than waiting in a call queue. It would also help us free up our phonelines for those who are urgently unwell. Next time you need us please try this route.

We thank you for your feedback and for your patience whilst we learnt and fixed our new phone system. We are truly trying our best.


St Pauls Partners