West Lancashire constituents have for some time been complaining that they can’t get GP appointments and, in many cases, when ringing their surgery are told that all the available appointments have gone or can’t get through and just keep getting the engaged tone.
Over the last eighteen months Rosie Cooper MP has raised this matter with the West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group and local surgeries, who have explained that Covid has meant new ways of working which would also more heavily include telephone calls or virtual assessments.
Rosie Cooper MP said:
“Before Covid my constituents were having problems getting appointments to see their GP but since the pandemic hit, complaints have now reached unprecedented levels. It was therefore shocking to find that GPs and the CCG knew that the telephone system that they required their patients to use wasn’t fit for purpose and was failing under pressure of the increased number of calls. Incoming calls from patients looking for appointments are having to compete with outgoing calls from doctors for telephone consultations.
“I have also now been made aware that the system is under such pressure that Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) who provide the service are limiting the number of calls that can be in a queue. This may very well explain why constituents are hearing the constant engaged tone and why they can’t get through.
“Some local surgeries have voiced their frustrations with the NHS phone system to me, complaining that it is ‘out of their control’. Other surgeries have had to procure their own system as I am hearing that this is a national problem of which NHS Digital is well aware.
“I have written to the local CSU and Secretary of State for Health and NHS Digital asking for a full assessment of the situation and any limitations that have been deliberately placed on them and what they are urgently going to do to provide a service which is fit for purpose especially as the NHS is relying on the telephone system more and more. It can’t be beyond the Government and the Dept. of Health to provide GPs with a 21st Century telephone system, surely!
“One of my constituents said she had to call her GP 3 times a week for 4 weeks before she got a telephone appointment with a doctor and that was only after she had copied me into her email to the surgery. She had previously been told to go to the walk-in centre but she was too ill to do that and still she didn’t even get a telephone appointment.
“This lack of access to GPs either face to face or on the telephone is leading to huge increased pressures on walk-in centres and A&Es which the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have said is unacceptable. A solution is needed quickly.”