Surgery websites not up to scratch
A new report by Healthwatch Somerset was published today. It looks at the way Somerset residents access GP surgeries and in particular the use of surgery websites. The report is based on feedback from patients to a Healthwatch survey. There is no doubt that many people can use the websites and find them helpful. But bearing in mind that the majority of users will be over 65, many do not. This is the age group that both:
- a) tends to need more frequent medical assistance
- b) tends to be least comfortable using websites
Unfortunately GP surgeries do not always appear to have grasped either point. Healthwatch Somerset have made a number of recommendations as a result of public feedback. These include:
- Website design and content should be simple and uncluttered, and frequent changes to design and layout should be avoided so that people can become familiar with using the site.
- Patient input should be sought when developing GP websites, for example through Patient Participation Groups or NHS Somerset Digital Champions.
- Simple instructions should be provided, so that people know how to use the website and how it can help people them get the care they need. This guidance needs to be offered in a variety of formats so that people who do not have to go online to find out how to use the website.
- More help should be provided for people who lack digital knowledge and skills. This could be through Somerset’s GP practice Digital Outreach Team, or by making sure people are directed to support schemes such as ‘Spark iT’ which is provided by Spark Somerset.
- If people are unable or reluctant to use digital services, they must not be criticised or excluded from getting the care they need from their GP practice.
As is often the case, you can get a strong feel for what is wrong with the websites, simply by reading the recommendations.