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The patients who spend ONE HOUR on the phone to reach their GP

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The patients who spend ONE HOUR on the phone to reach their GP: desperate struggle to get appointments exposed as research shows some people have been cut off after waiting more than ten minutes

  • Survey included 60 randomly selected urban and rural operations across England
  • It turned out that almost one in five callers made them wait 15 minutes or more
  • Across England, the average wait time was 8 minutes and 36 seconds for callers










Patients who call their primary care doctor to make an appointment wait up to an hour in line, according to a snapshot survey by the Daily Mail.

Some have been cut off more than once after waiting more than ten minutes.

But in a stark illustration of the zip code lottery faced by patients across the country, six out of 10 practices surveyed answered in five minutes or less.

With appointment demand returning to pre-pandemic levels, patients are struggling to get their surgery over the phone.

And if they do get through, they are often only offered a telephone appointment instead of an in-person consultation.

Colin Boughton-Smith (above) gave up seeing his GP after calling ‘at least 50 times’

Following a Daily Mail campaign to increase the number of in-person GP appointments, Health Minister Sajid Javid unveiled a nine-point package of measures to improve access for patients last month.

It included a financing package to upgrade the aging telephone systems of some operating rooms to meet rising demand.

In a sign of mounting frustration, MPs held a debate last week in which they talked about packed mail bags with desperate voters who reported calling their GP practice 150 or more times to get through.

I called at least 50 times and then gave up

Colin Boughton-Smith gave up seeing his GP after calling ‘at least 50 times’.

The 72-year-old contacted Burnham Health Center in Buckinghamshire on July 1 after hurting his back.

After 28 days of calling at 8am – and waiting at least 20 minutes with no success – and trying to book through an app and drop by in person, he was unable to make an appointment.

After emailing the practice manager, a doctor called him – but Mr. Boughton-Smith missed it because he was in the bathroom. A few days later he emailed again but got no response.

Mr Boughton-Smith MP Joy Morrissey wrote to the local client group.

Incredibly, the reply claimed the retiree was a minor and said his father would have to write to see him.

‘It was a complete turn-off,’ said Mr Boughton-Smith. A spokesman for the operation said it is “actively investigating” updated phone systems.

Now, a survey of 60 randomly selected urban and rural operations across England conducted by the Daily Mail found that nearly one in five callers had to wait 15 minutes or more.

Across England, the average wait time was 8 minutes 36 seconds, but in 19 percent of operations, callers had to wait 15 minutes or more.

The longest wait was an hour and 19 minutes at an operating theater in Kent.

It took 45 minutes to reach a medical center in Newcastle upon Tyne, while the third longest wait was 39 minutes at a practice in Lancaster.

On a more positive note, six out of ten practices responded within five minutes or less.

All calls were made after 9 a.m. – after the rush of patients seeking urgent appointments – and before 3 p.m.

Many practices play recorded messages for callers queuing, urging them to hang up and visit their website or call 111 for urgent medical advice.

But campaigners say elderly or disabled patients have more difficulty accessing technology.

James Sunderland, Conservative MP for Bracknell, last week described a resident trying to get through 159 times after worrying about a lump in her neck, but was offered a telephone consultation.

Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton West, said the problem threatened to increase pressure on overburdened hospitals.

“A lot of people now go to an accident and emergency,” he said. “The system is coming under great and increasing pressure, which builds up as we enter the winter.”

Some have been cut off more than once after waiting more than ten minutes

Some have been cut off more than once after waiting more than ten minutes

MPs said staff were being let down by underinvestment in IT systems.

This was also the view of Dennis Reed, of patient advocacy group Silver Voices.

He said: ‘While there are some very good GP practices, a large number of them operate in a turn-of-the-century style of customer service with turn-of-the-century telephone systems.’

NHS England said it helped practices move to cloud-based phone systems that provide extra lines, automated queuing and feedback on demand levels.

It highlighted that more than 98 percent of surgeries allow patients to book appointments online.

Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed plans to improve operating room telephone systems, but said it is essential that the government delivers on its manifest promise of an additional 6,000 GPs and 26,000 additional practice staff by 2024. so that clinics can meet the rising demand.

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