Shropshire Star

Frustrations rise over GP access after woman waits nearly three hours on phone

Healthcare bosses have said they are "working hard" on improving access to GP appointments, as frustrations rise among residents facing long phone calls to not see a doctor.

Healthcare bosses have said they are "working hard" on improving access to GP appointments

The 8am scramble to get a same-day appointment to see a doctor or nurse at their GP practice is a familiar feeling for many.

Long hold times that ultimately end with hearing that all the appointments are booked up have become an almost daily topic on community social media groups.

But for one patient in Telford who reported spending two and three-quarter hours on the phone before reaching reception, frustrations boiled over on Wednesday when she learnt that all Teldoc practices would be closed for the afternoon.

Teldoc, Shropshire's first ‘super-surgery’, is made up of six sites across Telford and Wrekin: Malinslee, Lawley, Oakengates, Madeley, Hadley and Leegomery.

Sue Ross, a Lawley resident, said she thought the service was "frustrating" and "not fit for purpose".

"If you need an appointment the lines supposed to open at 8am. Each time you're lucky to get through," she said.

"Last time I rang I spent two and three-quarter hours on the phone before I got through. I was asked by an NHS automated questionnaire to review my experience. I was honest and said the call system is not fit for purpose in my opinion.

"After my review was published on the NHS site, Teldoc wrote to me apologising, but said the population is expanding and patients' expectations are increasingly unrealistic."

Sue said she had been personally directed to go to A&E or an Urgent Care Centre on at least four occasions.

"I didn't go on three of them as I felt it was wrong to tie up valuable resources at A&E, putting pressure on already stretched service," she added.

"There are individuals - GPs, nurses, health care professionals, and reception staff who have been very good. Sadly, the system is wrong."

But Sue's frustrations came to a head on Wednesday when she was told that all Teldoc sites would be closed for training for the afternoon.

The practices were closed for 'protected learning time' to allow for collective learning and development among staff.

Emma Pyrah, Associate Director of Primary Care at NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said: “It is important that General Practice has scheduled and protected time for collective learning and development.

"Protected Learning Time (PLT) events during the GP in-hours period are common practice and involve peer-led sessions for healthcare professionals to learn about new clinical developments, updates to national guidance and best practice, whilst also sharing their own experience and knowledge with peers.

“Fundamentally, they are about improving patient care by providing dedicated learning time for healthcare professionals away from their busy day-to-day work. These sessions take place four afternoons per year and clinical cover is provided by Shropdoc during these times.

“Ahead of any PLT, it is the responsibility of practices to notify patients, which is usually done via website updates, social media posts, a text message directly to patients, or posters in waiting rooms.

“We understand patient frustrations around GP access and are working hard on improving this through extensive work to support the national Primary Care Access Recovery Plan.

"This aims to improve patient ease and experience of both getting through to their practice and the timeliness of appointments based on clinical need. It includes improvements through digital telephony and maximising the use of other digital tools to support access.