PATIENTS are regularly facing problems trying to phone their GP practices, according to figures from a recent survey.
This year’s GP Patient Survey shows accessibility of practices is inconsistent.
Surgeries have vowed to recruit receptionists, use online services to free up phone lines and install better call-handling technology.
Patient Kylie Chatfield, from Gosport, has problems calling the Willow Group in Gosport.
‘There are so many inconsistencies when it comes to phoning your GP practice,’ she said.
‘I’ve given up trying to phone mine and walk there to book the appointment.
‘It is an annoying problem but I don’t know how best to resolve it. I know practices are under a lot of pressure.’
The questionnaire asked ‘how easy is it to get through to someone at your GP practice on the phone?’ and only 15 per cent of patients at the Willow Group said they found it easy.
The practice got the lowest score of GPs across Portsmouth, Havant, Waterlooville, Gosport and Fareham.
Dr Robin Harlow, GP partner, said the practice was working hard to rectify the ‘frustrating’ problem.
Dr Harlow said: ‘We have a solution and are installing it now and expect the new phone lines to be up and running in September. We know how important access is, which is why we have worked to provide alternative methods.’
He said the survey showed patients had a ‘great confidence’ in the surgery’s care.
Other practices with a low number of patients who found it easy to get through on the phone were Stubbington Medical Practice (34 per cent), Fareham’s Highlands Practice (40 per cent) and Brook Lane Surgery (44 per cent) in Sarisbury Green.
Dr Donal Collins, senior partner at Highlands Practice, apologised and said: ‘We have moved to address this by recruiting extra reception staff since this survey was undertaken. We are trialling some software from our telephone suppliers to improve data around incoming phone calls.’
East Shore Partnership had the lowest figure in Portsmouth with 35 per cent of patients finding it easy.
Senior partner Dr Elizabeth Fellows said the practice, rated good by the Care Quality Commission, is aware of the problem and is working to improve access. She added: ‘We have been one of the first practices in the city to introduce e-consults, an online messaging service which has been very well received by many patients.
‘This allows those who don’t have online resources an easier time to get through on the phones.’
Hanway Group Practice scored 41 per cent and Devonshire Practice had 51 per cent.
Vine Medical Group in Waterlooville had 24 per cent of patients who found phoning their GP easy. It was the lowest figure of the town’s surgeries but has recruited more call handlers.
A spokeswoman said: ‘We have seen a significant increase in demand over the past year but we have listened to patient feedback and invested in a new telephone system.
‘The upgraded system allows calls to be better filtered. It also advises each patient of their position in the queue. In July, our average wait on the phones before answer halved.’
Homewell Curlew Practice had Havant’s lowest figure of 46 per cent. It has brought in more staff, is promoting its online system and is installing a new phone system.
Just 52 per cent of Bosmere Medical Group patients, in Havant, easily got through.
Practice manager Sophie Walker said: 'We changed our phone system in April and it's much better now. The results maybe aren't a true reflection of how things are now.’
All practices were approached by The News.
Additional reporting by Ben Fishwick and Tamara Siddiqui.