Volunteers from our Healthwatch audited 98 GP websites across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough between 24 June - 12 July 2020.
They checked how easy it was to find key information that was up to date, clear and easy to understand.
The aim was to find information that a patient might need 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; finding good examples of accessibility; finding out how easy it was to make appointments and complaints; and searching for information about practices’ Patient Participation Groups.
Report’s key findings
- Half of GP websites did not have the latest Covid-19 guidance for the public.
- Just 22 out of 98 websites had links to information about changes to cancer services during the pandemic.
- It was difficult to find information about advocacy support when making a complaint.
- 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.
- Two out of three sites did not have good examples of accessible information for patients with sensory loss or learning disabilities.
Our report - also available in Easy Read - urges GP websites to make it clear and easy for patients to make appointments and complaints.
They should also explain where people can get support to help them voice their concerns or get redress, if needed.
Healthwatch says surgery websites should also make sure information can be presented in different ways and formats so that people with sensory loss or disabilities are able to access it in a way that works for them.
Accessibility guidelines for GP websites
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.
We recognise that some practices may have been updating their sites during our audit and that changes have been made since our visits, in order to meet these regulations.
The information we discovered is a snapshot of information held on sites during the given time period.
What happens next?
- Healthwatch is offering GP practices the opportunity to discuss their individual audit.
- Our Healthwatch will be raising website quality with our East of England Healthwork network and nationally with Healthwatch England.
- We will develop a checklist of essential information for patients that practices might like to consider using for their websites.
- We will review a sample of GP websites in six months' time to see what has changed.
- Our report is being shared with: our Local Medical Committee which represents GPs and practices across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans, buys, and monitors health services in our area.
Response from Cambs Local Medical Committee
Our report will help GP practices make practical changes on their websites says Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, Chief Executive of Cambs Local Medical Committee.
She told us: “Cambs LMC recognises the importance of the contractual requirement coming into effect from 23 September 2020 for GP websites to be up to date and accessible for all.
“At this unprecedented time, practices across Cambridgeshire & Peterborough are managing in excess of 10,000 consultations each day and have had to adapt their processes in a very short space of time to keep their teams and patients safe.
“Cambs LMC is committed to supporting our practices in improving their websites in accordance with their contractual requirements after 23 September 2020, and believes the findings within this report will provide practices with a practical focus on making helpful changes, particularly in ensuring links are up to date; referencing Healthwatch and other key organisations; providing clear access and navigation around the websites; and clear complaints processes.”