Calls for GP appointment revamp after woman makes 96 calls in 12 minutes and still can’t get appointment

The Birches Medical Centre in Kesgrave.

The Birches Medical Centre in Kesgrave. - Credit: Archant

Fresh calls have been made to help patients get on-the-day GP appointments after one Kesgrave woman had to make 96 calls in just 12 minutes in a bid to see her doctor – only to be told there were no slots available.

The 29-year-old resident, who wished to remain anonymous, started calling the Birches Medical Centre in Twelve Acre Approach from 8am on Tuesday, but when she finally got through 12 minutes later was told no more appointments were available.

“It is a regular problem we have with the Birches Medical Centre, it’s so frustrating to have to have the phone on redial for up to 20 minutes sometimes to be told there are no GP appointments available that day,” she said.

“Usually there is only a duty nurse you can be squeezed in to see if it’s an issue of real concern. I’m a big fan of the NHS but it is scary to see how stretched they are.”

The patient has been with the Birches for the last 18 months having moved from her previous surgery of more than 20 years, where booking ahead was an option.

Another Kesgrave resident reported having to phone a combined 182 times on both her mobile and landline before she was able to get through and get an appointment.

The Birches confirmed that a high number of staff sickness and shortage of clinicians had impacted on the number of pre-book appointments available in recent weeks, but vowed to continuing working with patients to improve appointment availability.

Most Read

A statement from the centre’s partners and managers said: “Every member of staff at the Birches Medical Centre is committed to delivering safe and high quality care to all our patients.

“Like many GP practices in Suffolk and across the country we are struggling to meet increasing demand for primary care services meaning that at busy times a patient has to wait longer for an appointment. Recent unprecedented staff sickness and a shortage of locum clinicians have had a detrimental effect on the availability of pre-bookable appointments. This has meant that the majority of appointments are released on the day or in times of extreme staff shortage this has been limited to urgent appointments only. During this time we have experienced a high volume of calls in the morning and have had more staff answering calls to accommodate this.

“We are actively looking at how our appointment booking system could be adapted to meet this increasing demand and we are working with our patients to get their views on how we can make the happen.”

The latest problems come amid a GP shortage across the county, with the Ipswich Star’s sister publication the East Anglian Daily Times reporting in January that parts of Suffolk needed a 33% increase in GP numbers to cope with the demand and growing population.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and practicing doctor, said: “There is a challenge across Suffolk, particularly in the Ipswich area, where some GP surgeries have been struggling to recruit doctors in training or registered GPs, and that has caused some short term problems in surgeries, so it’s certainly something we have been looking into what can be done to address concerns from residents.”

Dr Poulter has called for a greater drive to encourage GPs to live and work in Ipswich, as well as making more routine appointments available for those seeking repeat prescriptions or blood pressure checks, to ease the numbers seeking appointments on-the-day.

Andrea Patman, head of commissioning for NHS England Midlands and East, added: “Support is already in place to assist struggling practices and NHS England and the CCG are working closely together on this and to jointly take action to increase the number of doctors in general practice, in line with the target to recruit 5,000 more GPs nationally over the next five years, through new incentives for training, recruitment, retention and return to practice.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter