The difficulties of getting appointments with GPs

Patients of Brechin Health Centre have complained about the difficulty they have in getting GP appointments (writes Shona Beaton).

Patients of the surgery have been saying that when telephoning at 8 am to get an appointment that day they have, in many cases, failed to get one.

Not happy with the health centre is Barbara Lindsay who explained: “You phone at 8am to get an appointment only to be told there is none left. Also if you want a certain doctor you have to wait a week or more.”

Also finding getting an appointment hard is Karen Ingram who said: “What truly mystifies me is that I can never get parked in the car park, yet when I go in, there are only a couple of people in the waiting room.

“Also you phone at 8am, it’s engaged, you get through five minutes later and low and behold there are no appointments left!

“I never specify any doctor as that is a complete waste of time.”

Nikki Biss felt that getting an appointment would be easier if people phoned to cancel their appointments if they could no longer attend.

“I think if half the people that made appointments who didn’t need them in the end called up and cancelled them then maybe there would be some free when calling at 8 am in the morning.

“We all have our own doctor but it can take up to weeks to be seen. I don’t like being passed from pillar to post, I want the GP who knows me.”

Appointment wasters should be charged suggested Elma McLeod, who said: “The system doesn’t seem to work very well, but receptionists are only doing their job.”

“I think appointment wasters should be charged like at the dentist, then maybe they would cancel when not attending, that way people who really need a Doc would have a better chance.”

Dawn Kennedy felt that the old system of booking an appointment worked better: “The appointment system at the health centre is a joke.

“You phone for a GP but never get one, not even at 30 seconds past 8 am, so you get a nurse practitioner.

“Give them their due, they usually do a great job, but, when you phone for a GP you should get one.

“The old system was far better where you phoned up and asked for an appointment and if they didn’t have one for that day they could make it for another day.”

Also preferring the old system was Laura Croll who explained: “When you phone at 8 am and you finally get through there are no appointments left and you can’t make an appointment for the next day.

“Instead, you’re told to phone back at 8am the following day. Obviously the system isn’t working as best it can. What was wrong with the old system?

“When it comes to getting an appointment with your own GP it can take days, It can be very frustrating, especially if you have a life-long medical condition and frequently require to see your own GP. “

However not everyone has problems getting seen at the surgery.

Shona McLean has no complaints. She said: “I’ll be honest and say I’ve never had any problems.

“If I phone for an appointment and am offered one with the practice nurse I’m quite happy with that.

“On two occasions she thought I needed to see a GP and brought the duty one through.

“If a doctor asks me to come back for another appointment I usually make it in advance before I leave the surgery. It’s not a huge practice but I think they do a great job.”

When the Brechiner contacted the Health Centre it was revealed that, on average, 60 appointments a week were missed without cancellation.

However all genuine emergencies were seen on the same day.

Dr V. Ripley, on behalf of the Brechin Health Centre explained: “The biggest factor is that the appointment system does not appear to be well understood.

“Genuine emergencies are always seen the same day by a health care professional. This will, of course, mean that if you insist on being seen the same day you will not necessarily see the nurse or doctor of your choice.

“If the problem can wait then patients can book ahead with the nurse of GP of their choice.

“We have a DNA (Did Not Attend) rate of 60 appointments a week on average and this does not even include patients who are not in when we call them for a pre-booked telephone appointment slot.

“Unfortunately, we are not allowed to charge patients for missed appointments.

“We endeavour to provide a service that suits the majority of the population we serve and are always open to suggestions from the public, providing we are approached by them through appropriate channels.”