Anger as patients are kept waiting

A quarter of Norfolk patients and nearly a third in Yarmouth and Waveney are having to wait more than the two days set out by national guidelines to see their GP.

A quarter of Norfolk patients and nearly a third in Yarmouth and Waveney are having to wait more than the two days set out by national guidelines to see their GP.

More than half of people had problems getting through to their surgery on the phone, and nearly a fifth of people were put off going to the doctor because of opening times.

There was anger last night that patients are not getting the service they need - but the primary care trusts (PCTs), which run surgeries in the area, say plans for longer opening hours will help.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said: “It's certainly not good enough. Everyone should have access to their GP. People don't ring up just for fun, they ring because they need treatment.

“PCTs and the government are losing touch with what people really need, which is access to GPs before and after work and on Saturdays. The walk-in centre up at Dussindale is brilliant and GPs will be inundated with people when that closes. These are ridiculous figures. I feel really angry about it.”

Norfolk's PCT, NHS Norfolk, says it has committed £2.2m towards paying GPs to open longer, and that more than a quarter of GPs have already applied for or been awarded extended hour contracts. It expects to be several months early in meeting the government's target for half of surgeries to open for longer by the end of the year. Yarmouth and Waveney PCT says half of its surgeries are already due to open longer, and that it is working to extend opening hours even further.

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Simon Lockett, secretary of Norfolk's Local Medical Committee of GPs, said: “Practices will obviously be trying to see patients as quickly as they can. There are reasons why it doesn't work out, like split site practices and part-time doctors. There is a conflict between seeing people who need to be seen the same day and filling up appointments in advance. Doctors can only see one person at a time, and they have other medical interests. Every practice will have a system for ensuring the emergencies are always dealt with and sometimes that will mean less urgent patients have to wait.”

The figures are from a national survey of 69,000 people carried out for the Healthcare Commission. They show that 26pc of Norfolk patients had to wait more than two working days, while 40pc had an appointment the same day and 28pc waited one or two days. In Yarmouth and Waveney 32pc had to wait more than two days, 33pc were seen the same day and 31pc had to wait one or two days. Nationally, 25pc of people had to wait more than two days.

Most people were happy with the treatment they had from their doctor, the amount of time they spent with them, and how well their treatment was explained. Norfolk PCT had some of the best results in the country for patients who had confidence in their doctor, were treated with respect and dignity, and were given information about their treatment and medicines. It also scored well for cleanliness of surgeries and polite receptionists.

Yarmouth and Waveney scored particularly well on involving patients in their treatment and choice of medicines, providing convenient opening times for surgeries and for seeing a dentist regularly. More residents have access to a dentist than anywhere else in the country.

Alison Taylor, deputy director of commissioning at Yarmouth and Waveney PCT, said other surveys had produced different results. A survey published earlier this year showed that 90pc of patients in the area had access to a GP within 48 hours.

John Battersby, director of primary care for NHS Norfolk, said: “The results are a reflection of the continued investment and commitment to improve primary care services and we have collectively been working towards ensuring services are reviewed and improved.”