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News Archive > General > Patients may wait 5 days

Patients may wait 5 days

By Natasha Swift 12th July 2017

Patients may wait 5 days
The hub at Polkyth

PATIENTS could be left waiting for five working days to speak to a doctor from Monday when St Austell Healthcare (SAHC) makes changes to the way routine appointments are booked.

From July 17 patients will be able to ring at anytime between 8am and 7.30pm from Monday to Friday and ask for a telephone consultation with their usual doctor, or doctor who has been dealing with their problem.

The changes are being made after the group admitted its current appointment system was not working and it said it realised routine appointments go very quickly which was “frustrating” for patients.

SAHC said it had listened to feedback from patients who had experienced difficulty getting through on the telephone.

From Monday receptionists will add the patients’ details to the doctor’s waiting list and the doctor will aim to call them back within five working days.

The doctor will call the patient to discuss their problem and arrange for them to come into the surgery to see them if necessary.

The doctors will be working in small teams with a dedicated receptionist to support them and if the patient needs to be seen, the dedicated receptionist will ring them to arrange a time to come in.

If the patient’s doctor is on holiday they will have the choice of waiting until they return or being added to the waiting list of another doctor. SAHC said it hoped the changes would help to ensure each patient sees the same doctor when they require an appointment.

The group said no appointment system was perfect and getting an appointment with a doctor was a national problem.

But the changes have raised concerns about the length of time some patients could be left waiting to speak to a doctor.

MP for St Austell, Steve Double, said he would be raising the issue with SAHC.

He told the Voice: “Being able to call and speak to a doctor is a step in the right direction but I am also concerned at the potential waiting time of five days.

“I will be raising this with St Austell Healthcare at our next regularly scheduled meeting and will be seeking assurances as to what measures will be in place to ensure patients with potentially serious conditions are prioritised.”  

One patient, who did not want to be named for fear of being ostracised, told the Voice the new appointment system had left them fearing for those who had serious health issues after their experiences with trying to book an appointment.

They said: “I have had serious problems with the St Austell Healthcare Group this weekend.

“After an allergic reaction to a horsefly bite I was unable to be seen at The Hub and, rather than wait for a call back, I had to go straight to Penrice Hospital to be seen to make sure that my hand, which had more than doubled in size, wasn’t infected.

“Eventually, after waiting for hours, I was giving a call back from St Austell Healthcare, not from a doctor, but from a receptionist telling me that I had medication waiting for me at the pharmacy.

“If this is how they are going to operate going forward then I fear for anyone who has a serious health issue and has to deal with St Austell Healthcare.”

The father of an eight-year-old SAHC patient told the Voice he had called the surgery at 8.30am after his son complained of earache and having trouble hearing.

He was told a doctor would call him back, but he said no one contacted him until 9.15pm that night.

Dr James McClure from SAHC explained the reasons behind the changes: “Our doctor administration workload is very high. We have been trying to recruit new doctors, advertising nationally and locally, but currently recruiting doctors in General Practice is a national problem.

“Reception and phone lines are busy with a complex structure of appointment availability and certain times/days patients have to phone for an urgent or routine appointment with their doctor. People phoning multiple times causes frustration for them and increases the phone burden and reception workloads.

“We also recognise that not everyone needs or wants a face-to-face appointment with their doctor, and many problems can be dealt with by phone.

“We have been listening to what our patients have been telling us and these changes take effect from Monday.

“We really hope this will help to reduce the telephone congestion, improve patient experience, make it easier for you to speak to the same doctor each time and obtain a face to face consultation when you need one.”

By Natasha Swift 12th July 2017

Stephen Nott 13th July 2017 08:20
How on earth are Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing expected to cope with this?
Absolutely ridiculous and not thought out properly at all definitely discriminates against us and leads to unequality for the deaf patient!!!
Andrea Gray 13th July 2017 10:37
So when we were assured that the closure of Woodland Road surgery would actually improve access and overall service to local people, that was in fact untrue?
Oldandugly 20th September 2017 16:51
I don´t like this situation any more that you do however unless you can magic up several additional Doctors then this is where we are. Central governments of all persuasions have underinvested in EVERYTHING. Apprenticeships, infrastructure maintenance, nurses & now doctors, protest to you MP, become a Doctor better still don´t get sick!
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