An ideal specialist service?

A new service has been set up in our local hospital and they have asked if they can visit our GP practice to tell us about it and they are offering us some ‘teaching’ – presumably related to their specialty.


We are going to invite them, but rather than replicate the usual format for these meetings we (I) thought we might tell them what, from our perspective, an ideal specialist service might provide.
This is a generic wish list, for any specialty. Hopefully patients, GPs, specialists, commissioners and other healthcare professionals might offer their own suggestions.


Firstly we want a website, accessible to patients and professionals for your service with all the relevant information, which should include the following:


  1. Contact details: Travel, phone numbers for appointments, cancellations, and other queries. An email address or contact form
  2. Links to patient-information including self-care, self-referral options, local support, help-lines, patient-forums, etc.
  3. Links to information for carers and advocates
  4. Up to date guidelines, and shared-decision making tools for patients and professionals
  5. Quantitative data: how many patients are you seeing, how long are they waiting for an appointment? How long do they wait when they get there?
  6. Your commitment to patient-centred care: How are the material, organizational and interactional aspects of your service, ‘patient centred?’
  7. Patient and clinician feedback: It should be possible for patients and professionals to leave feedback via your website. You should analyse it and provide a monthly report including your proposed action
  8. Quality measures. These should include:
  • Patient-reported outcomes and long-term follow up – we want to know how long your interventions are effective for
  • Safety reports: a monthly or even quarterly summary would do
  • Patient satisfaction surveys: Quarterly or biannually?
  • Staff satisfaction surveys: Once or twice a year? We want to know that we’re referring to a service that cares about its staff



I’ve tried to keep this list short. No service I know comes anywhere close to this. Patients have to trust that we will refer them to services that will take good care of them but trust is not enough.

Thanks to Phil Cavel who has blogged his experience of spinal surgery for prompting me to write this. If you’re looking for a new, very special bicycle, he’s your man.

5 responses to “An ideal specialist service?

  1. “No service I know comes anywhere close to this.” Sad comment, as your list seems eminently sensible and achievable – hope your new style interaction creates the dialogue you/we need

  2. I would add the word ‘correct’ in the first point. And also for those patients that don’t have internet access, accurate and detailed letters so that patients have the information about their appointment including a detailed map and address so that they know where to go.
    A local ultrasound service (owned by GPs so should know better) sent a letter out without the correct address or a map of where to go. So I checked the website but the link to the clinic closest to me actually went to a clinic with the same name but in a different town.
    And they wondered why they had so many DNAs!

  3. Excellent list- Truly needed if a new service is going to get to the right patients & not going to simply complicate the patient journey..
    Many, but not all, of these points would be covered by most GP surgery websites – Should we include all of this info on our own sites?

  4. Patients will certainly welcome this. My local hospital (v big and now a vanguard) has very poor patient comms. I actually use another hospital’s patient info leaflets if I want to know more about a procedure.

  5. I recently signed on and into the online service at my GP’s surgery but when I needed to order one of the prescribed medications, I found it could only be prescribed by my attendance at the surgery – the very thing it was meant to render unnecessary. So no saving of my time or petrol.

    Practices and hospitals may be getting bigger and more ostentatious, but with the current paucity of doctors it is already a case of spreading the butter too thinly. Grand buildings and big ideas do not make for a great NHS.

    Time to slim down those ranks of politicians and bureaucratic civil servants with their grandiose salaries and pay the REAL front-line medical staff what they are worth to prove how much they are valued.

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