GP group spends £100,000 tackling ‘serious issue’ with phones as patients tell of their fury

Kylie Chatfield, from Rowner, who is having problems with her local health centre which is run by the Willow Group.' Picture by Ian Hargreaves.
Kylie Chatfield, from Rowner, who is having problems with her local health centre which is run by the Willow Group.' Picture by Ian Hargreaves.

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PATIENTS have told of their frustrations with a group of GP surgeries as a health boss admits there is a ‘serious issue’ with their phone lines.

The Willow Group in Gosport is forking out £100,000 to fix the problem and admits access has been a problem after complaints people could not get through to them.

But the group, consisting of Brune, Forton, Waterside and Stoke Road Medical Centres, said it has received ‘limited’ official complaints.

One patient, 33-year-old Kylie Chatfield, said she has struggled to get a doctor’s appointment for months.

She said: ‘It is an absolute nightmare to get hold of them, and with the problems I have had it made me feel even worse.

‘You aren’t able to get through to the practices over the phone and the doctors aren’t able to see you.

‘I appreciate that they aren’t able to see everyone at once but because I can’t see a doctor face-to-face, I don’t think my symptoms have been fully understood.

‘I’m at the point now where I’ve started looking if there’s anywhere else I can go.’

Another patient, who wished to remain anonymous, said she has frequently been told to visit practices across town, which she says are physically impossible for her to get to.

She said: ‘There have been times where I have waited nearly eight weeks to see a doctor about my condition and it has been like this for nearly a year now.

‘They seem to expect you to go to different surgeries, even when it isn’t really accessible.

‘I have a long-term physical condition and to go across town is almost impossible for me.

‘I want to find somewhere else to get treatment.’

Willow Group says it is aware of the issues that patients are facing, and will be implementing measures to alleviate the ongoing concerns.

General manager Kerry Cooper said: ‘I am really sorry to hear about these problems that people are having.

‘Our phones have been a serious issue for a while now.

‘We are investing more than £100,000 to bring everything up to speed.

‘This will take us about three months to implement completely, but in the meantime people can also contact us via email or on our Facebook page.

‘I know we have a problem with access at the moment but if people have an urgent problem we have the same-day access scheme, as well as the e-consult scheme for people to use.

‘I think it is a common practice to pool our resources, but if patients can’t get to one of the sites they need to tell us that.

‘Once they do we will make sure there is an appointment available at a centre they can get to.’

The four practices came together as part of the Better Local Care programme.