Gwent residents on the difficulties of booking a GP appointment

That is the struggle facing many in Gwent and indeed across the UK.

The pandemic has brought numerous challenges to the health system, although many still face difficulties in seeing their GP.

Argus readers had their say recently with a host of people describing their experiences trying to schedule an appointment with their doctor.

Some were positive, but a large number reported negative experiences.

A recurring issue is problems with phone reservations, as many don’t have time to sit on hold only to be told they’ll have to call back the next day.

Phone appointments became more popular during the pandemic as attempts were made to keep people as far away as possible from potential sources of covid infection.

While the pandemic technically continues, restrictions have been lifted and life, for the most part, goes on as before.

However, there is a shortage of medical professionals in the UK, particularly GPs, with many choosing to work as substitutes rather than in permanent roles.

Some readers suggested that for non-urgent cases, the reservation should be made weeks in advance if that is not already the policy.

Julie Price, a Newport resident, described how a booking policy in surgery seemed to defy logic.

Her husband had managed to get an appointment at his clinic, but it was nearly impossible for him to schedule a follow-up that day.

Mrs Price said: “He (her husband) stood at the front desk saying ‘the doctor said I need to make another appointment’ and they said ‘no you can’t, you have to call’.

“He said ‘but I’m here’ but they told him he had to call at a certain time.

“They told him and he released four dates a day, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Ms. Price said her husband was finally able to secure an appointment, but the family will be changing surgery as soon as possible.

However, that was not the only issue raised by Ms Price, as she complained that she was referred to the pharmacist when she had serious health problems but was unable to get an appointment with her GP.

She said the pharmacist was “absolutely appalled” at the state Mrs Price was in and immediately went to call the GP to get her an appointment.

Unfortunately, the pharmacist didn’t have a direct line to the GP, so he had to call the same number as everyone else, so effectively Mrs Price was back to square one.

This is another recurring theme in Argus readers’ complaints about GP services in Gwent: referring patients to other healthcare professionals unnecessarily.

Some Argus readers suggested this might be one of the reasons A&E departments are struggling, with one saying they had been sent to A&E due to a sore throat.

However, not everything is pessimism.

Several Argus readers have said they have only positive things to say about their GP, showing how wildly experiences can vary in a small area.

One reader, Lisa James in Monmouth, explained how her experience with her GP has improved during the pandemic.

Ms James said she was unable to get an appointment when she had covid symptoms in February 2020, but “once we learned what covid was, if [she] needed some of [her] GP surgery, they were more than willing to help.”

In fact, in April 2021, when Ms James again experienced suspicious covid symptoms, her surgery “immediately” attended to her.

Since then, Ms James said she has had no problems trying to see a doctor.

Ms James said: “Yesterday morning, for example, I called them at 9am and asked to speak to a doctor.

“ At 10 in the morning the doctor called me and we had a talk.

“He said ‘you want to come in’ and I said ‘no, you put my mind at ease.’

“In the last six weeks, I have been able to physically see a doctor four times with no problem getting an appointment.”

A spokeswoman for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said: “We apologize to patients who have experienced difficulties or delays in accessing GP services.

“With demand for these services 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels, we are taking a number of steps to improve access for our residents.

“It is important to remember that there is also a shortage of permanent GPs across the UK, with many choosing to work as substitutes, putting additional pressure on local surgeries.

“Despite the challenges they face, our medical practice staff continue to go above and beyond to improve access and quality of care for their patients.

“Across our board of health region, GP practices are employing additional staff such as advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical therapists, paramedics, mental health professionals and occupational therapists to help meet demand and, therefore, patients will be seen by the most appropriate health care professional to accommodate. your needs.

“Many of our GP offices offer online appointment systems to offer greater accessibility, and we are also continually working to improve our phone systems, as well as hiring additional staff to answer calls and allow more people to communicate with our offices. .

“We continue to work with GPs and the public to assist the most appropriate hospital for the patient’s needs.

“We advise people to consider other available options before contacting their GP where appropriate, such as visiting their local pharmacy for free advice as a first port of call or contacting NHS 111 Wales if they are unsure where to go.”

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