GPs benefit from first-hand view of patient experience

GPs should take the time to learn first hand about referral pathways they send patients on, according to a Lancashire GP.

dr Robert Smyth with physical activity referral oficer Katie Wilson raising awareness of exercise schemes (Photograph: The Gazette, Blackpool)
dr Robert Smyth with physical activity referral oficer Katie Wilson raising awareness of exercise schemes (Photograph: The Gazette, Blackpool)

Fleetwood GP Dr Robert Smyth, of Broadway Medical Centre, referred himself to a prescription exercise scheme he had been sending patients on for several years.

'It wasn't because of any health concerns, but to try to give myself an insight into the scheme,' said Dr Smyth. 'We were referring patients, and some went through the full 14-week programme, but some disengaged after a short time. I wanted to look at the reasons why.'

Dr Smyth said that part of the problem with early drop-outs could stem from patients expecting to be prescribed pills to slim and instead being sent on an exercise course.

By taking part in the YMCA-led programme himself and gaining publicity in the local press, he hoped to drive up awareness of the scheme.

'From a clinical point of view, some clinicians will be pro-exercise programmes, but some won't think of it as an option. Making patients more aware may mean they can come forward and ask,' he said.

'If someone comes with an idea of how they want to be treated and are treated like that, compliance is more likely.'

He felt it was vital to find out more about the patient experience going through this particular referral pathway because it could save money treating a wide range of patients. Dr Smyth said exercise schemes were an alternative to antidepressant treatment for some patients and could be used to treat respiratory problems and other conditions.

But he said first-hand knowledge was a useful tool for GPs. 'To have a working knowledge of where you are referring your patients to and what you are referring them for is invaluable,' Dr Smyth said.

'Our local cardiac unit has GP open days where you can see the equipment, experience the patient journey. More knowledge is useful, and this was an ideal opportunity to do it.'

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