A petition has been started with the aim of reducing call wait times at an Eastbourne GP surgery.
The Change.org petition is titled ‘Reduce call waiting times for patients at Victoria Medical Centre, Eastbourne’ and currently has 879 signatures, as of December 1.
On the petition’s page, which was started by Sophie Catlin, she said, “Victoria Medical Centre, Eastbourne was formed this year after merging three major GP surgeries.
“Rather than creating an enhanced, safer, more efficient service, this merger has resulted in a service that is failing the needs of its users, leaving many patients feeling distressed, frustrated and worried for the safety of themselves or a loved one.
“On a daily basis, patients are consistently faced with unacceptable call waiting times in excess of one hour just to be able to speak to a receptionist, then only to find that there are no appointments available.
“Others are forced to go to A&E to get help after failing to get through at all after numerous attempts of trying to make contact.”
The patient said she created the petition to call for those in charge of Victoria Medical Centre (VMC) to immediately implement major changes to their telephone system.
VMC patient Kevin Maxfield said he started having an issue getting through to his surgery around seven months ago.
He said, “So much is being controlled with how the NHS wants everyone to behave. They are trying to do micro-management.”
The VMC patient has called on the surgery and the NHS to ‘keep it simple’ and to ‘leave it alone’.
He said, “You only have to read the national news.
“How many people are waiting for cancer treatment and stuff like that?
“People are now going to A&E.
“The whole thing is falling apart because they are trying to over-manage it.”
Mr Maxfield, who travelled to Asia with his wife last year, said he was better cared for while in Myanmar.
He added, “It is over-regulated by people who feel that is what they have to do.
“It used to be so easy to see a doctor.
“I would ring up and get an appointment the same day or the next day.”
Other frustrated VMC patients have left reviews on Google and the NHS page.
Jamie Gardner wrote, “I haven’t got through to one person at VMC for nearly seven months.
“I have no choice but to use A&E for things my doctors should easily be sorting.
“I have been on the phone for over four hours to get told they will call me back.”
Mark Williams also said, “I am unable to get an appointment or even speak to anyone on the phone.
“I desperately need to speak to my lovely GP, which was never a problem when at Bolton Road. I feel abandoned.”
The surgery currently has a 1.6 star rating out of five on Google – from 85 reviews.
Fellow VMC patient Ashleigh Gamble also explained how she waited over an hour on the phone to get blood test results – before eventually hanging up.
She said, “The only other line I was able to get through to was the appointments line, which was easy enough to get through to because they are not pre-booking any appointments.
“I was told if I wanted to make an appointment I needed to call at eight the next morning.”
The VMC patient said she doesn’t think she would have been able to get an appointment as other residents would be doing the same.
She added, “The only alternative is to try and communicate with my GP via Engage Consult (online) however this works the same way as telephone appointments.
“I tried to do this every morning for a week once and each morning was told that there were no more allocations for that day.
“I managed to physically see my doctor a few weeks ago and was one of only two people in a massive waiting room.
“The new building is wonderful but getting access to it is diabolical.”
An East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) spokesperson said as soon as the issue was identified VMC urgently brought in extra resources to provide support with incoming calls.
VMC also reviewed its phone system and made improvements, according to the spokesperson.
In addition, the CCG said they are assured the number of appointments available to registered patients when they do get through to the GP practice – either by telephone, video or face-to-face – is sufficient.
The spokesperson said the CCG has also received increased reports of abuse and threats towards its GP practice teams.
Understandably the CCG has said it will not tolerate any kind of abuse and that staff deserve to come to work without fear.
A spokesperson from the group said, “We are aware that some patients registered with VMC have experienced difficulties when trying to contact the GP practice by telephone in recent months.
“We sincerely apologise for this experience and we are working closely with VMC to improve access for their patients.
“Additional resources have been brought in to reduce the length of time that patients are waiting on the phone and the practice has also reviewed its actual telephone system.
“By taking these steps the length of time that patients have to wait on the phone before getting through to a member of staff has shortened considerably, and we will work with them to continually review the way they are working to ensure these improvements are maintained.
“VMC, along with other GP practices, are experiencing high levels of demand – both for GP services as well as calls about covid-19 vaccinations – and this has led to increases in the number of calls to the practice.
“This has understandably caused inconvenience, concern and anxiety for some patients as there are longer than expected waiting times, and together with VMC, we would like to thank the vast majority of patients for their kindness, patience and understanding as the practice has worked to improve their systems.”