WOKINGHAM Medical Centre “needs to be held accountable for their awful service” says a staff member at a local elderly care company after they have been left hanging on the telephone for more than an hour.
The staff member — who wanted to remain anonymous — contacted Wokingham.Today about their concern that telephone wait times are increasing the vulnerability of elderly patients at the surgery.
They said: “I work for a home care company that looks after people in their homes, and we have a lot of clients in Wokingham.
“We have permission to speak to doctors and nurses on our client’s behalf, and often have to ring a variety of GP surgeries.
“The call wait times at Wokingham Medical Centre were terrible before you ran the article last year. They improved for a few weeks and now we are left waiting upwards of 40 minutes to speak to someone.”
Staff at the home care company often phone GP surgeries across the borough to book nurses appointments for dressing changes, request urine samples, or to ask questions about specific medication for their clients.
“I know that recently Wokingham Medical Centre has been a little short staffed, but one of my colleagues was left waiting on the phone for an hour and 10 minutes the other day,” they added.
“I have even driven down to the centre, whilst on hold to reception, and arrived before they answered the phone.
“Once you get through, the doctors and nurses are lovely and really care about the patients, but something is clearly going wrong on their admin side.”
Elderly patient vulnerability
They are concerned that elderly patients left waiting in a telephone queue often hang-up before they can speak to someone.
“What I’m really worried about is the vulnerable, older people calling the surgery.
“I have had clients tell me they’ve been left waiting on hold for over 25 minutes and just given up. It’s putting vulnerable people in an even more vulnerable position.”
They explained how an elderly person’s health can quickly decline if a medical appointment is not made on time.
“Take for example a urine infection, which can occur quite a lot. You need to catch it within three to five days and get antibiotics as it can become quite serious.
“If it’s left longer than that, it can cause severe dehydration, confusion and disorientation — which could cause a fall.
“This results in an ambulance being called out, and a week in hospital on an IV drip recovering, maybe even with a broken hip.”
Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services for Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We are aware of issues to do with residents having very long phone waiting times at the Wokingham Medical Centre.
“We have been lobbying the CCQ for some time to develop an improvement plan to raise the service to an acceptable level.
“It is not right that residents have to wait so long to get access to the GP over the phone.
“We call on the management of the Wokingham surgery and the CCQ to take urgent steps to answer the phone a lot quicker and give all the access they need to a GP.”
At the surgery
Dr Vipan Bhardwaj, Executive Partner and head of the Modality Partnership’s Wokingham Division said: “Across the country, general practice is facing unprecedented and sustained levels of pressure with high demand and a shortage of GPs and staff.
“Nevertheless, we are committed to delivering high quality accessible care and, as an example, already offer unlimited appointments via Push Doctor video consultations.
“We will continue to work with patients to deliver new ways of working that will positively impact access.”