We were contacted recently by a Migrant Support Worker from the fantastic Voice in Exile organisation. For over a week she had been trying to set up a GP appointment for a Service User. We offered to help.
We called the GP Surgery and after a long and complicated outgoing message and a 20 minute wait we were able to speak with a Receptionist. They were reluctant to make an appointment with a SIS interpreter without more information about the nature of the consultation. They also said that patients cannot make advance appointments unless the person calls on the morning of the potential appointment day.
We asked what arrangements for making appointments were in place for patients whose first language is other than English. We are aware that many of our service users tend to go to GP Surgeries to make appointments as they are uncomfortable on the telephone. Visiting to make appointments is often no longer possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We were asked to wait whilst the Receptionist liaised with a colleague. The colleague had tried to book a SIS interpreter but had thought SIS was closed and had not listened to our short voicemail message about how we can be accessed – 24/7/365.
After a time the medical colleague established that the patient had mental health challenges and agreed to make an appointment for the patient in a few days’ time. We will support this call with our group call facility. The interpreter will call the service user in advance to explain how it works.
The patient was pleased and our ViE colleague was delighted – “Wow, what an excellent service! It can be such a frustrating process for vulnerable clients”.
We are working with Clinical Commissioning Groups to open up Primary Care for vulnerable people with communication support needs.