By Oliver Ronaldson/ Molly Lempriere/ Kirsty Capes and Kat Clementine
The Union of Brunel Students has promised to work to improve the on-campus Medical Centre after a recent survey revealed dissatisfaction with doctor availability, walk-in service times and quality of service.
Opening times for the practice are called ‘poor’ and staff labelled as ‘rude’ by students who took part in a survey conducted by the Union of Brunel Students.
Out of 196 respondents, around a quarter rated the services provided 3 out of 5, and over 26% rated the opening times as ‘poor’.
The Medical Centre, which is located adjacent to the Howell building, has 11420 registered patients, around 9200 of which are students. While the practice received only a “dozen to fifteen complaints” in 2014, a survey conducted by the Union has revealed widespread discontent with the service provided.
One student told Le Nurb that a “rude” member of staff called her an “idiot” to colleagues when she tried to cancel a physiotherapy appointment over the phone.
She said: “I do not believe staff should be discussing patients’ cases in such a flippant manner, and (the staff member’s) behaviour was unacceptable for NHS staff.”
Le Nurb understands that in this case, the member of staff was disciplined and the student received a written apology.
Another student stated that he was refused a prescription to anti-psychotic medication after being told that it was against the Medical Centre’s policy to prescribe psychosis drugs without a referral from a doctor.
The student claims he was instead prescribed sleeping pills and after multiple attempts to get the medication failed he resorted to trading his sleeping pills for the drugs he needed online.
The student said: “I was horrified that someone suffering from psychosis, with a long history of mental health and self-harm, was left to rot for months on sleeping pills.”
The Practice Management team has refused to comment on any individual cases put to them by Le Nurb, citing patient confidentiality rules. Representatives did note that University practices do not prescribe certain types of psychosis medication as they could be sold on campus to other students and abused or used for concentration enhancement.
The Union survey also showed students wanted a more accessible appointments system. Some students voiced concerns about difficulty booking appointments when they have a long-term condition such as diabetes, joint problems and skin conditions. Generally, a student with a long-term condition at a walk-in appointment should be told by a doctor to book an appointment at reception.
Practice Manager, Bill Darvill, said that if a student cannot come to a walk-in appointment they should be “offered an appointment the following week as a last resort.
Mr Darvill said: “The current system is that because we operate the walk-in system, we are able to offer booked appointments to non-students and those students who can’t attend walk-in generally within forty eight hours. The more we move away from the walk-in surgery the longer the waiting time would be for an appointment. The walk-in service is a very responsive same day service for students to access if they are unwell. The alternative to the walk-in would be a seven to ten day wait to see a doctor.”
In medical emergencies and urgent cases, a patient can be guaranteed to be seen within 48 hours and last year, 98% of patients who wanted to see a doctor were seen within 48 hours.
The walk in service, which is “essentially for students”, is conducted daily from 11.30 to 1.15. Patients are guaranteed to see a doctor on the day if they turn up at walk in times. In 2014, 13500 students were seen at the Brunel Medical Centre using this service.
Comments from the Union’s survey revealed that a number of students felt that the two hour walk in period was “not long enough” and that it was “difficult” to make an appointment.
The Medical Centre employ three GP's daily, with four available to see patients on Mondays, the busiest day of the week for the practice.
The practice also offers a physiotherapy for two days a week and nurse appointments.
The Medical Centre is a leasehold tenant of the University, meaning that it serves both students of the University and members of the local Hillingdon community, and is not a service affiliated with or provided by the University.
Founded in 1982, the Centre amalgamated two smaller local practices, one of which was stationed within a local doctor’s home.
Around 5800 non-student appointments are made per annum, covering a range of health issues for the elderly, chronically ill and babies.
The Medical Centre has conducted a number of internal surveys asking for patient feedback, with contradictory results to the Union’s own survey and reports given to Le Nurb.
The NHS encourages all GP practices to hand out a feedback form asking patients whether they would recommend the practice to friends and family, and for the Brunel Medical Centre’s responses have been, on the whole, positive.
The Union’s Medical Centre Survey is part of an ongoing campaign to improve services and communication between the Medical Centre and Brunel students. Campaigns Chair Yohanna Sallberg is leading the campaign. She told Le Nurb:
“The survey has provided us with an invaluable range of opinions and suggestions that will be essential in how we move forward.
“The next step is focus groups with students to discuss issues and explore possible solutions as well as further meetings with the Medical Centre and the University to see how we can build a stronger relationship and further our communication.
“The aspiration is to end up with a campaign focusing on information, communication and understanding with the ultimate goal to make sure that every student registered with the Medical Centre is happy with the care provided.”
The Medical Centre complaints procedure states that: “Any patient who is dissatisfied with advice given or treatments or services received whilst registered at Brunel Medical Centre is invited to contact the Practice Manager either by telephone (01895 266441), letter or email detailing their issues and/or complaint.” Practice Manager Bill Darvill says, “We are committed to working with the Students Union to improve communications and manage expectations.”