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Waiting Times: Frome GPs seek help from their patients

A SENIOR doctor at the Frome Medical Practice has made a plea for patients to let them know if they have to cancel an appointment either with their GP or other health professional in order to reduce waiting times. 

Figures just released reveal that last month a total of 750 appointments were missed. In March, the figure was 778 meaning patients who want to see their doctor are forced to wait weeks sometimes for an appointment because hundreds make them and then don’t turn up.

The senior partner at the Frome Medical Practice is Dr Tina Merry. She recognises that there is a problem with the time that patients have to wait and see their own doctor. She explains that her practice is doing everything that it can to rectify the situation, but the one factor that would make a big difference is if patients let the practice know that they had to cancel an appointment.

Dr Merry said, “Of course I recognise that there is concern from some patients at the waiting time that they have to see their own doctor. This is a national problem, not one that just relates to Frome and the surrounding area.

“We are doing everything that we can to alleviate the problem. We have already brought in a new appointment system, making more GP appointments available. A new recruitment campaign has been launched to engage more GPs, either on a permanent or on a locum basis, but the fact is that nationally fewer doctors now want to become GPs.”

Dr Merry is keen to stress that a doctor is always available on the day that a patient telephones for an appointment.

She added, “Patients may indeed have to wait to see their own doctor. They may be on leave, on training or be away ill. No society or system can support an ‘on demand’ service to see your own GP. However, other doctors are always available to be seen and dates and times are offered to our patients, whether they are booking online or by telephone or in person.

“If you cannot book an appointment to see a GP on the same day, then there is available our Walk In clinic which is based at the Community Hospital. There is no need to book, just turn up and you will be seen. We make every effort to see patients as quickly as we can. The current average waiting time at the Walk In clinic is 49 minutes, with priority being given to parents with very young children. The practice team working at the Walk In clinic is extremely experienced and always includes at least one GP.”

Dr Merry emphasises that the practice listens to what their patients tell them and continues to do everything that it can to improve waiting times. But Dr Merry also asks for help from the patients at the Frome Medical Practice.

She said, “There can be a thousand reasons why patients need to cancel an appointment. We really do not mind what that reason is, as long as patients tell us that they cannot make it. We are doing everything that we can to reduce waiting times, but to help us we also need the co-operation of our patients.

“Last month there were 750 wasted appointments that we could have offered as cancellations to other patients. This includes 296 GP appointments. Thus, to help reduce waiting times we have a special cancellation telephone number of 01373 301310. The line is open 24 hours and I would urge patients to please use this dedicated number so that we can then offer that appointment immediately to another patient.  It can help make a big difference.”

• What do you think? Is there a problem with waiting times for an appointment at Frome Medical Practice? Let us know by emailing news@frometimes.co.uk