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Cash prize for Wigan GP with innovative appointments idea
Monday 23rd November, 2009

Cash prize for Wigan GP with innovative appointments idea
l-r - Christine Tomkins, CEO of the Medical Defence Union; The Drs Pitalia; Professor David Haslam, RCGP President

Local GP Dr Shikha Pitalia and the team at the Ashton Medical Centre in Wigan have been presented with a cheque for £4000 at an awards ceremony in London after they were voted overall winners of the GP Enterprise Awards 2009.

Dr Pitalia came up with the simple idea of a mobile phone number her patients could use to ‘text to cancel’ an appointment if necessary. This helped overcome a common problem in GP surgeries: high numbers of no-show patients.

The GP Enterprise Awards are presented by the Royal College of General Practitioners in association with GP Newspaper and sponsored by the Medical Defence Union. The awards cover six categories, which are designed to celebrate innovation in general practice and promote ideas that can be easily adopted by most GP surgeries or primary care organisations around the UK.

Dr Pitalia said: “Most people have mobile phones nowadays and a text is usually cheaper than a phone call. The mobile phone we use will only receive texts and cancellations are actioned quickly and appointments are freed for other patients. Patients report that texting is quick and effective, and far preferable to trying to get through on the phone.”

“The initiative has improved patient access, reduced ‘no-shows’, improved telephone access, and enhanced patient satisfaction levels. Staff are also happier because of the improved working environment and having the ability to offer patients pre-bookable appointments.”

Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, added, “We are especially proud of the standard of this year’s GP Enterprise Awards. Busy GP surgeries need good, easy to apply ideas, which reduce risk to patients, improve patient care and enhance the overall doctor-patient experience. Well done to all those who put forward their suggestions and congratulations to this year’s six winners.”

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU Chief Executive, who presented Dr Pitalia with the award at the ceremony, said: "Dr Pitalia's practice has shown what can be achieved when a good idea is pursued with energy and vision. The beauty of this system is that is uses everyday technology to free up practice staff time and to improve doctor/patient communication. We hope that innovations such as this will inspire other practices to look at whether their own systems and procedures can further enhance the quality of care patients' receive."

Colin Cooper, Editor in Chief of GP Newspaper, said: “Once again, the GP Enterprise Awards have achieved exactly what they set out to do. Together with the RCGP, we aimed to seek out and highlight some of the best new initiatives in hard-working surgeries around the UK. This awards scheme is uniquely concerned with publicising ideas from grassroots practices that can easily be replicated by other GPs to improve their working lives.”

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