GPs admit phone delays are 'not acceptable'

November 26 2019

A GP PRACTICE has written to patients to ask for their "support, patience and understanding" after a barrage of criticism.
Partners of the merged Emersons Green Medical Centre and Leap Valley Surgery have written to members of a Facebook group where "frequent and negative feedback" is aired by frustrated residents.
The practice, which also includes Abbotswood surgery in Yate, acknowledged problems with booking appointments, particularly by phone, and said it was "not acceptable" that people sometimes could not get through.
Patients have also aired complaints on the NHS website.
One patient of Emersons Green Health Centre described the appointment system as a "shambles", with another saying: "One morning I rang at 8am for over 2 hours – 89 times before I finally got through – just to be told again that all the appointments were gone for the next two weeks."
A Leap Valley patient said they had called the surgery's enquiry line 26 times in a day to get through, adding: "Calls are usually met with a mixture of it either being engaged or getting through to the recorded message only for it to continuously ring with no answer, when you are lucky enough for it to finally be answered the receptionists can be quite unhelpful and abrupt."
Another patient complained of waiting more than a fortnight for each appointment, while a third said: "The appointment system is broken – no online appointments for months, no answering the phone for over 15 minutes."
In their statement, the partners of the surgery said there was "hard work...going on behind the scenes to improve the current situation".
The partners said that since the merger two years ago they had been unable to combine their patient lists because of "separate contracts with NHS England".
A problem with recruiting new GPs had also caused "significant issues" but the practice, which is set to relaunch as Green Valleys Health, had launched a staff recruitment drive and introduced a new patient navigation system, which had reduced appointment waiting times.
But they added: "We understand that sometimes it can be difficult to get through and this is not acceptable."
The partners said staff were "working in a very pressured and challenging environment" and said: "This has been a very difficult time, particularly for our very committed, dedicated and caring team who work extremely hard to provide the care and support to patients."
A spokesperson for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is in charge of funding local NHS services, said: “We know there is a high demand for appointments with GP practices across the area, but would like to assure local people that practices will always prioritise more urgent cases, so those with the most urgent medical requirements are seen more quickly."