A doctor at an under-fire Chesterfield medical group says lives are being put at risk – as NHS bosses admit they have been unable to recruit sufficient GPs.
Holywell Medical Group hit the headlines after being inundated with disgruntled patients who claim they struggle to get appointments, records are not updated and illnesses are being misdiagnosed.
Last week Ruth Dahill and her partner Ian Baker, of Staveley spoke out after their four-year-old son Edward needed emergency surgery – when a burst appendix was misdiagnosed as a tummy bug.
Now Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins is calling for urgent action to be taken as almost 70 per cent of the constituents he has asked, say the service at the medical group – which runs The Grange Family Health Centre in Grangewood, Rectory Medical Centre in Staveley, Holywell House in Chesterfield, Inkersall Family Health Centre and The Medical Centre in Barrow Hill - is getting worse.
Locum doctor Nicholas Bulmer said NHS England had “washed its hands of the practice” and added: “It’s pretty obvious that it is not safe to see 60 patients in a day. GPs can no longer guarantee safe patient care.”
Dr Bulmer said the group’s eight doctors are dealing with around 3,000 patients each - almost double recommended Royal College guidelines.
He added: “It is only a matter of time before there is a tragedy.”
A surgery spokesman said while the group was “committed to providing high standards of care in all its surgeries” they recognised patients were finding it difficult to get appointments.
He added: “With a national shortage of available GPs, we have been unable to recruit sufficient GP staff to guarantee rapid access to services for all patients at all times.”
Jackie Exton, 66, of Middlecroft Road Staveley was forced to wait five weeks for a follow-up appointment with a GP despite being told she must return to the surgery within a fortnight.
Mrs Exton lost her voice for three weeks and found a lump in her throat – but Rectory Medical Centre said they could not fit her in and could only offer a telephone appointment.
Mrs Exton said: “Obviously that wasn’t suitable as I couldn’t speak.
“I’ve worked all my life and have never been one for going to the doctor and when you need a bit of help you can’t get any.
“It’s beyond poor. Everyone I speak to is frustrated with it.”
Another patient William Bramley, 67, of Ashover Road, Inkersall, was forced to wait seven weeks to see his doctor.
Mr Bramley was suffering with leg pain but the day before his appointment the surgery rang to rearrange it. The same thing happened the week after.
He said: “You ring at 8am for an appointment and can’t get through to anyone until 9am, when all the appointments have been taken.
“Every day when you go past the doctors at 7.40am there are around 17 people standing outside waiting for them to open. It’s disgusting that people at almost 80 years old are having to queue from 7.30am to see the doctor.”
In November the Care Quality Commission issued a formal warning to Holywell Medical Group after an announced check at The Grange Family Health Centre. Health watchdogs found the surgery was failing to meet the essential standards in care.
Toby Perkins said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn the full extent of issues at the medical group and is calling a public meeting.
He said: “The GPs are under so much pressure it’s hard to imagine how they can deal with this number of patients.”
NHS England has put in place an improvement plan which includes changing the appointment system and telephone and computer issues across the practice sites.
A spokesman said recruitment of doctors was not down to NHS England but a matter for individual surgeries.
He added: “They are a business and in charge of their own staffing.”
What do Derbyshire Times readers think?
Stacey Walker said: “It’s problem after problem since it changed over. Pregnant women being left with severe water infections because doctors are not passing things over to midwives, waiting three weeks for an appointment, parents being told children are no longer priorities for appointments. It’s horrendous.”
Jessica Penney-Atkinson added: “My two week old baby boy was diagnosed with constipation by them and when we took him to the hospital its was meningitis! They are useless!”
Victoria Grace Bramley said: “This is my GP practice too and I have to say from experience I’ve always found them very pleasant and efficient.”
Asa Duffy added: “They nearly killed my nana by instantly deciding to take her off of her water tablets which in turn made fluid develop on her lungs and caused a heart attack.”
Ravelle Sheree Josephs said: “I just recently left Holywell Medical Group due to them being so bad. I’ve been a patient with them since a baby I’m 25 now my whole family had moved due to how incompetent the place has become.”
Penny Hardwick added: “Don’t know any of the doctors names anymore. You see one doctor, then need to go back but can’t see the same doctor.”
Lisa Wilmott said: “They refused me an appointment for my son when he was six weeks old. He ended up in Royal Hospital two hours after being refused the appointment with gastroenteritis and dehydration!”
Jennie Beardshaw added: “No wonder they can’t manage if they have only eight doctors for five surgeries!”