Some of you may remember that in the last academic year (2017/2018), I started a campaign to improve the health care services on campus in response to an online petition started by Phoebe Dormand, a current Royal Holloway student, calling for the NHS GP Surgery on campus to improve its services. A year later, I am beyond excited to announce some of the positive changes implemented as a direct result of listening to your feedback.
In October 2017, Professor Bob O’Keefe, Vice Principal (Student Experience) and I undertook an internal review which looked at the health care provisions provided by the NHS GP Surgery and whether this matched the needs of our students. This process highlighted the increasing student demand for a health care service that is both high quality and easily accessible.
Since then, I have continued to work with the College to develop a positive working relationship with the GP Surgery so that we can openly discuss ways to improve different aspects of how they operate, including adopting a more student-friendly approach. It means we've spent a lot of time 'behind the scenes' working together to create a range of solutions to issues you highlighted while also investigating potential areas of investment.
Overall, that means we're now in a position to roll out a bunch of changes that will ensure that you have access to high quality health care on campus.
With so many changes taking place I've decided to break everything down into smaller chunks to make it a little easier to digest.
Many students reached out to me and said they wanted to see a medical professional at the GP Surgery when they need it, without having to wait for long periods at a time. This was backed up by our review which showed a staggering amount of appointments were being used up for documentation requests.
That's why back in June, Professor Bob O’Keefe and I introduced a self-certification extension policy that enabled all students on taught programmes to request a 5-working-day extension for their assignments without having to provide a doctor’s letter. This positive change has freed up almost a third of the GP Surgery appointments for all students and reduced appointment waiting time. Essentially, Doctors and nurses are now able to provide medical advice to students without having to deal with large amounts of letter requests.
Investment in resources has also been a key focus and the GP Surgery has added extra weekly appointments for students to consult healthcare assistants and nurses - which equates to over 30 extra appointments each week compared to last year! Alongside this, they have also introduced a 'direct access' physiotherapy triage service which means that students can book directly into see the surgery's specialist musculo-skeletal physiotherapist rather than having to wait to see a GP and then be referred. This means an additional 8 slots per week directly accessible by students.
This all adds up to some impressive statistics, especially when you consider that on average, Royal Holloway students will now be able to see a GP within one week for a routine appointment which is much lower than the national average of 3 weeks.
There's also been a couple of other tweaks to the service which are all aimed at freeing up appointments and making your access to services a little easier. This includes the introduction of a self-service blood pressure machine, removing the need to see a clinician for repeat contraception requests while the surgery can now provide evening and weekend appointments at the King Edward Hospital in Windsor so you can access a GP at a time that is more suitable for you.
Exciting news! All students can now register online with the GP Surgery. This is a big step forward in terms of an NHS practice adopting a digital-first approach that is accessible to all students – gone are the days when you have to physically fill out a piece of registration paper!
One of your big frustrations was around how you check-in for appointments, with privacy and confidentiality a real concern. The surgery has taken the first steps to address these issues and has installed a self check-in screen in the lobby which is easy to use and has cut down waiting times considerably.
For students who also provided feedback on improving inclusivity within health care, you'll be pleased to hear that staff members at the GP Surgery have since enrolled on an Equality & Diversity training programme to ensure they approach every student with understanding and empathy.
As your Vice President Welfare & Diversity, I'm pleased to see that the College, GP Surgery and Students' Union have been able to work together to improve student wellbeing on campus. I like to think of it as student voice in action, a student raised a concern and we have been able to respond to it and work to delivery positive changes. While it’s important to celebrate our short-term wins, it's important to understand that this is a long term project and there's still more improvements to be made.
So keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks where I'll be giving you more updates on further changes that are in the pipeline. Stay tuned!
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