Healthwatch Camden report reveals poor experience of GP services for BME communities

On 2 March 2016, Healthwatch Camden issued a report entitled: ‘Access to GP services in Camden: the experience of BME communities,’ which revealed that people from BME communities in the borough experience difficulties and poor outcomes when accessing GP services in Camden.

The research showed that too many people from Camden’s BME communities say that their experience is the opposite of what is expected from a GP service. That is, they have consistently poor access to GPs and find it difficult to get the right information, support and guidance.

The report is part of a series of Healthwatch Camden linked reports on the services provided by GP practices in Camden. We’ve chosen to report on GP practices as this is the number one topic that gets raised by local people when they talk to Healthwatch Camden.

Frances Hasler, Healthwatch Camden Director says, “Healthwatch Camden exists to promote the voice of local people in health and social care, including those from disadvantaged communities. It is vital that our local GP services reflect the diverse Camden community that we live in.

“It is not acceptable to have a situation where members of the BME community feel that their health concerns are not being taken seriously or that they feel stressed at the prospect of visiting their GP practice.

“We hope that our research will go towards a better experience for Camden BME patients at their GP practice and that our recommendations can go towards best practice.”

Focus groups consisting of men and women of all ages from the Bangladeshi, Chinese and African Communities were conducted in their mother tongues.

Key issues raised, included:

  • A lack of respect received from GP receptionists. A respondent said: ‘I have to mentally prepare myself to go and see my doctor because of the way they treat me, especially the reception staff’.

  • Difficulties in making an appointment with a GP in the times provided by the surgery. One respondent said: ‘I can’t make any booking by phone because it’s very difficult to get through to someone. When all attempts fail and I get desperate I go there in person. Then they blame me for turning up without an appointment first.’

  • Misdiagnoses, or diagnosed very late due to doctors not taking the time to listen and also language barriers. This included an African man whose wife had first gone to their GP in 2008 having found blood in her stools, she was not diagnosed until 2011 and died of bowel cancer in 2012.

  • Failures in mental health support and advice. For example, parents who’d experienced perinatal mental health problems stated that a lack of information or education on their illness, meant that they blamed themselves for failing to cope rather than seeking support.

Healthwatch Camden made recommendations for GP practices, Commissioners and the Health and Wellbeing Board.

These included:

  • For GPs – consideration should be given to people whose first language is not English, for example, offering longer appointment times or that health advocates are routinely based in GP practices.

  • For Commissioners – Treatments such as counselling should be available in community languages.

  • For the Health and Wellbeing board – arrangements should be made so that a range of support is available to those experiencing perinatal mental illness, including counselling and peer support.

Healthwatch Camden would like this research to help towards addressing health inequalities in the Camden borough. Everyone should be able to access the same good quality service, no matter what their background, race, age income or sexuality. We will be following up our reports in future years, to see how our recommendations have had an impact.