It is clear that ongoing problems with the phone system at the new Medical Hub at Moredon are intolerable.
The new hub covers Taw Hill, Abbey Meads, Eldene, Moredon & Phoenix surgeries.
I have been working on this issue on a daily basis, throughout the past few weeks and months, with several meetings, emails and phone calls, to raise residents’ concerns and scrutinise what steps the hub needs to take to improve the situation.
In principle, the idea of surgeries joining together in partnership to share back-office and admin tasks so that GPs can spend more time treating patients is a good one, and it is already working well across Swindon.
However the current wait that many patients are experiencing on the phone to these five surgeries is completely unacceptable.
Short of being able to wave a magic wand, the only people who are in a clear position to make this urgent improvement are IMH, which clearly needs to provide more call-handlers.
Something which they have done before, particularly last November/December when there were reports of between 14-18 call handlers at peak times which resulted in positive reports from residents.
However, the negative experiences returned in the New Year and reports of ridiculously long wait times began again. It has since become obvious (although not confirmed by IMH) that the call handler numbers have reduced again. I have made it clear that they need to invest in the additional staff to be able to handle the volume of calls ASAP.
In fairness to IMH, there are areas in which they working hard to make improvements across the surgeries. For instance, clear and efficient processes are needed to be able to refer patients to hospital and to sign-off prescriptions so that they are ready to go to the pharmacy. Each of the surgeries were taking slightly different approaches to this with some doing them manually and some getting stuck on big admin piles. This often led to prescriptions being delayed and hospital referrals not being sent as quickly as they should. IMH are now ensuring that all of the practices are organised and processing these efficiently.
One of the other positives to this change has been the recruitment of physios, asthma nurses, pharmacists and other staff who will be able to see patients straight away without the need to be referred by a GP first. This will then free up GPs to spend more time with patients who need them most as well ensuring patients have access to a wide range of services at their local practice.
This feeds into the NHS’s Long Term Plan which is aiming to improve primary and community care by increasing funding by an extra £4.5 billion each year by 2023; and coincides with the work being done to increase the number of GPs in training as fast as possible (there are more in training but obviously this takes a while to feed through).
However patients locally are currently being let down, simply because they cannot get through to their own local surgery on the phone.
This is not acceptable and cannot go on any longer. IMH need to act. They need to bring in more call-handlers and they need to do so immediately.