A prominent Diss GP has said doctors are just as frustrated and concerned as patients are at waiting times to book appointments at local surgeries.
Dr Ian Hume, who has worked as a GP in Diss for 21 years, currently at the Parish Fields surgery at Diss Health Centre, has said workloads, coupled with resource cuts and severe difficulties in recruiting new GPs to fill vacancies, has left general practice in south Norfolk, and nationally, in a “precarious” position.
He told the Diss Express: “We would all like to see patients being able to get in (for an GP appointment) in a reasonable timescale. It is as frustrating for doctors and staff when we haven’t got enough appointments as it is for patients.
“There are several practices in the south of the (Norfolk) patch which are seeing reductions in funding year on year, which makes it even more difficult to take on more staff.”
Dr Hume, who is the British Medical Association spokesman for Norfolk, the body which represents doctors, said he was happy his own practice could meet the needs of people needing emergency appointments, but, like other practices, said there were not enough general appointments.
The Diss Express posted a question on its Facebook page this week: “How easy is it to get an appointment to see a GP at your surgery?” Dozens of people were moved to comment.
Diss and Harleston practices came in for most criticism about the task of getting appointments.
One Facebook commenter said: “Diss is difficult. Engaged tone for 30-45mins from opening time, then fully booked. But they do have emergency appointments if you think it’s that urgent.”
Another said: “Harleston. Try getting past reception. Twice now I’ve had to go to Norwich walk-in (centre) because I can’t be seen for two weeks.”
Some did praise new online booking systems, and some said they had no problems booking at all. Most praised the quality of service, once they saw a GP.
North Suffolk practices, including Eye and Botesdale, came in for praise, for ease of booking and quality of service.
Maria Ford, practice manager at Harleston Medical Practice said in a statement that the surgery faced many of the problems Dr Hume described, coupled with a comparatively high proportion of over 65s and those with chronic illness.
She said: “Our current appointment system has been developed as a response to our community’s needs and expressed preferences. We offer a mixture of same day and next day bookable appointments as well as extended hours surgery which is bookable in advance.
“Clinicians also provide follow up appointments at the time of initial consultation for ongoing clinical matters to ensure convenience and continuity of care.”
She also said the surgery has a vacancy for a GP, and that recruiting was not as easy as it once was.
Dr Hume said: “Whilst demand is continuing to rise, the government has failed completely to provide the support that local GP practices need, to offer their patients the time and care they require.
“This has had an incredible effect on GP recruitment in the local area, and is resulting in a workforce crisis.
“General practice across Norfolk and Waveney is struggling to cope with a recruitment crisis that’s now affecting the care of local patients.
“In all honesty, I have been in practice for 25 years and never seen the situation so precarious.”
The Diss Express asked NHS England for a comment, but did not get a response.
What is your experience of your surgery? Tell us by writing to Diss Express, Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.