GP websites not providing vital Covid information, says health report

Sandie Smith is the chief executive of Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Sandie Smith is the chief executive of Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - Credit: Archant

Many GP surgeries across Cambridgeshire have not been providing vital information about the coronavirus and changes to cancer services on their websites during the pandemic, according to a survey carried out by a health watchdog.

Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Healthwatch Peterborough audited 98 GP websites across the area in June and July to see how easy it was to find key information without having to make a telephone call to the practice.

This included checking for a link to the Government’s Covid-19 website, looking for information about changes in cancer care during the coronavirus crisis and finding out how easy it was to make appointments and complaints.

It found half of GP websites did not have the latest Covid-19 guidance for the public, just 22 out of the 98 websites had links to information about changes to cancer services and it was difficult to find information about advocacy support when making a complaint.

Healthwatch chief executive Sandie Smith said: “Websites should be an easy way for people to find out information about health and how to look after themselves.

“We know GPs have been working hard to respond to the Covid-19 threat but providing up to date and accurate information during the pandemic is an essential part of this effort.”

She said: “We know some websites will have updated their content since we carried out our survey. But we will be working with our local health partners across the area to raise the issue of GP website quality.

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“We will also revisit a sample of sites next spring to see if things have improved.”

The survey also showed 72 sites had links to self-care information but some links did not work, less than half had information about the practices’ Patient Participation Groups and two out of three sites did not have good examples of accessible information for patients with sensory loss or learning disabilities.

The report called for GP websites to make it clear and easy for patients to make appointments and complaints and should also explain where people can get support to help them voice their concerns or get redress if needed.

From next week, all GP websites must meet public sector accessibility guidelines and publish an accessibility statement. The deadline to comply is 23 September 2020.

Cambridgeshire’s Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs and practices across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, says the Healthwatch report offered a practical focus on making helpful changes.