Phone nightmare could be over soon for surgery patients
A PHONE system used by two of the area's biggest surgeries is being replaced after a deluge of complaints.
Patients of Green Valleys Health, which runs Leap Valley Surgery and Emersons Green Medical Centre, say they can spend hours trying to get through to book appointments.
A year ago doctors wrote to patients admitting that the phone service was "not acceptable".
But there has been no improvement since then, with complaints continuing on the NHS ratings and reviews site of "poor service", as patients describe being repeatedly unable to get through, being put on hold for 10 minutes at a time and suddenly being disconnected.
Now Green Valleys Health says it is working to get a new system in place by the end of the year as a "top priority".
In this year's NHS patient satisfaction survey, 48% of Leap Valley and 52% of Emersons Green patients described their experience of booking appointments as "poor".
And a recent critical report by the Care Quality Commission also highlighted the issue.
Ray Govier, from Bromley Heath, told the Voice he has waited for more than two hours at a time to get through to the surgery.
He described his most recent experience of arranging for a blood test and receiving the results as "absolutely hopeless".
Ray said: "You dial the number but you don't get a reply – you occasionally get a recorded voice coming on, then that collapses and dies and you get a ringing tone and no answer.
"I couldn't get hold of a human being. A friend of mine decided to listen to the ringing tone and count the times it rang, but stopped after 100."
Ray, who is 93, ended up driving to the surgery after not receiving a promised call to tell him the test results, then waited outside, as the waiting area was closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
Ray said that as he waited, a woman came to the door of the surgery to beg for an appointment after failing to get through on the phone.
He said: "She was screaming into the intercom, saying 'you've got to help me', but there was a notice on the door saying appointments would not be made there.
"There's no connection between the patients and the surgery."
Green Valleys Health has now announced that it is buying a new phone system.
GP partner Dr Jonathan Evans said: “We are deeply sorry to hear about these experiences and for the frustration caused to those involved.
"We are aware of the ongoing issues relating to our telephone lines and improving this is a top priority.
"We are in the process purchasing a new telephone system, which will better meet our needs and reduce waiting times for our patients.
"We would like to reassure patients that we are focused on getting this new system in place by the end of the year.
“Once again, we offer our heartfelt apologies for the distress and frustration caused to both our staff and patients by our telephone system. Access to good telephony is now more important than ever and we are committed to improving the systems so that our patients receive a better service.”