SIS Bilingual Community Researchers helped people to complete an online Survey.
The Healthwatch Survey asked about patient experiences of accessing G.P Services in Sussex – of what is and isn`t working.
Here are the stories and voices of some of our Service Users.
“It is difficult to call my GP to book an appointment because of my lack of English. I have found the best way is to either use the app or go to my GP surgery and they book an appointment for me while I am there. During lockdown, I was unable to go to the surgery because I was shielding and therefore I was unable to book appointments during this time. After I managed to install the app, I used this to book appointments and this worked well. I need a Portuguese interpreter for my appointments and I am normally given the interpreting support that I need”
(Portuguese Speaking Service User)
“It has been difficult to contact my surgery. Covid has made it more difficult to get an appointment. I cannot use the technology. It was feeling ill and concerned that it was difficult to get an appointment. This really needs to be improved. I have diabetes and kidney problems, which makes it very stressful that it is difficult to get an appointment. I am concerned that my condition will get worse while I am waiting. When I could not get an appointment, I called my friend and asked for help with contacting 111.
The treatment is usually very good and always supportive. However, during the lockdown it became so difficult to contact my GP and make an appointment to follow up my treatment and review my medication. It was particularly difficult to make a face-to-face appointment. I have long term health conditions so this is a big problem.” (Farsi Speaking Service User)
“I always need help with calling my surgery for an appointment because I cannot speak English. Sometimes, I use the little Spanish I know. I phone them or I go there but the staff at the reception always try their best to understand me. I cannot use the internet or a computer but I can book using the phone when I have the language support.
I have to find someone who can help me phone and make an appointment due to my language barrier. I was worried that if nobody could help me with phoning, my condition may get worse.
At the appointments, everything goes smoothly with an interpreter who has a matching dialect for my interpreting needs (Arabic Dialects are not the same). It was easy to speak with the medical staff because I got help from a person from SIS who speaks my language. It was a telephone interpreter for my appointment.” (Arabic Speaking Service User)
“It has been very difficult to get an appointment. I cannot contact my surgery directly because I do not speak English; I tried once but could not make myself understood. I now contact SIS for them to contact my GP due to language barrier.
The last time I needed to see my GP, I had very bad intimate pain and I needed a referral to a specialist. I called the surgery to make an appointment with my GP with the help of a SIS Volunteer Linguist. I was told to call the following day for an urgent appointment, as they could not provide a same day appointment because we called after 8:00 AM. I was told that even if I called at 8am then they could not guarantee an appointment. They did not have anything available for 2 weeks. This system needs improving. I could not call at 8am the next day because there was no one at SIS available at that time.
I ended up going back to Italy and seeing a GP there. My condition had got worse because of the long delay, I developed more symptoms and the pain increased. It turns out that I had a condition which needed antibiotics to treat it.” (Italian Speaking Service User)
“I always need someone to call the surgery on my behalf. The last time the waiting time was so long, I was caller number 11, and it took 45 minutes in the queue. I was worried that I have less chance with being able to see or talk to my GP.
It is even more frustrating when I have nobody to help with the language need because I cannot call myself and I cannot read or write so I cannot use the internet to help.
I could not get the support I needed from the GP because the interpreter booked by the surgery for my consultation was difficult for us to understand each other. We had different dialects because we were from different countries. It is also difficult to understand interpreters on the phone. I would prefer interpreter present with us.” (Arabic Speaking Service User)
“It is so hard to make an appointment with my surgery. I need a lot of support with speaking to the receptionist, raising my health issues and making a face-to-face appointment with my GP. Before the lockdown, I used to go to my GP, and it was easy to get an appointment. During the lockdown, it was particularly difficult to contact my GP and make an appointment. I do not have a good knowledge of IT so I cannot use the new systems.
I have long-term health conditions and need to have appointments frequently to follow up my treatment, get a general check and review my medication. I would prefer to have a face-to-face appointment.
Recently, I had symptoms, which made me so worried – I thought I might have cancer, which I have had before. It was inconvenient for me to talk to the receptionist and explain about my condition on the phone because there is no language support for this. I was so concerned and worried when I could not get an appointment easily.
When I did see the GP, it was difficult for me to persuade my GP to refer me to a specialist or consultant for further test and examination regarding my health condition. Eventually I had a helpful procedure and examination with a Special Doctor, which led to a good diagnosis and re-assurance that I did not have cancer”. (Farsi Speaking Service User)
“I don’t speak English so I need support of a Portuguese interpreter during my appointments and normally I get a telephone interpreter. I have not yet used the App or the online booking system.
I have not been satisfied with the GP service.
I asked if I could have the flu vaccine, but I was told that I could not have the vaccine. Then when I arrived at the surgery, the nurse came outside the surgery and gave me the flu vaccine, without explaining anything to me.
I also think the GP could have helped me more to resolve my health problems. I wanted a face to face appointment for my skin problem and to be referred to a dermatologist, but the GP wouldn’t give me a face to face appointment or refer me.” (Portuguese Speaking Service User)
“Contacting my surgery is not difficult, but you have to call at 8:30 precisely to get a same day appointment. If you are not there ready to call at that time, you might not get an appointment.
During Covid it was more difficult, they had problems texting messages about appointments, and this became confusing, but it’s ok now. There are often long queues to speak to a receptionist and I am not confident about using the internet or a computer.
I have a language barrier problem, but I think they know me at the reception by now, so they try to help and usually I just manage to get an appointment when I need it.
I think the GP does not listen to me. My problems persists and it’s difficult to get a referral to a specialist service from the GP. I am prescribed painkillers, but don’t get referred. The treatment I get does not work, I’ve had this problem for a very long time.
Due to a cultural barrier, I don’t understand how the system works and this might be a problem too.
I need an interpreter for mental health issues, as there are terms that I do not understand. If I’m more familiar with the issue, like my hand problem I might not need it, the doctor might use a translating program on the screen and we mostly manage to communicate, but I need support with the language and I do get it.” (Spanish Speaking Service User)
We can help you to: register with a G.P, make a G.P appointment, request a face to face G.P appointment or request interpreting support.
Please call us on 01273 234016 or access our translated self-referral forms: https://sussexinterpreting.org.uk/service-users/
Thank you to our Bilingual Community Researchers and to all the people who kindly shared their experiences.
We hope the Survey Report will build on other important feedback about access to G.P services received during the pandemic: