by Columnist Jordan Tenant
A Victoria Medical Practice patient said he was treated like he “had the plague” following a painstaking wait for a telephone consultation.
Another local man, Gordon McInnes, tried calling the surgery more than 100 times before being cut off.
While a Wheatlands Avenue woman desperately dialled at 8.30am, as soon as the phone lines opened, and threw in the towel after 89 unsuccessful attempts.
A spokesperson for the surgery on Victoria Street, Blantyre said it was unaware of “significant issues” with patients being unable to access appointments and would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
It said: “Demand for access to GPs is high at present and the team at Victoria Medical Practice continue to work tirelessly to provide a high level of care to the local community.”
The health centre operates a system where patients phoning for an appointment are offered a telephone consultation that day. In-person appointments where “additional clinical benefit” is required for physical examinations or when tests need to be carried out are still available. It also offers video consulting technology for patients who require a face-to-face consultation.
Blantyre Councillor, Bert Thomson has not been contacted by any constituents with concerns surrounding the issue but admitted he has personally waited for “long times” on the phone for his own medical practice. The Labour representative, of 14-years, said: “People are anxious when they phone up and the practice should look at hiring more staff to answer phones at busy times.” He added: “Hopefully as the lockdown eases, some normality will resume.”
A NHS nurse working in critical coronavirus wards, who wishes to remain anonymous, has expressed her frustration at GPs who refuse to make physical contact with patients but are happy to accept the Scottish Government’s proposed pay rise. She said: “GPs should be ashamed of themselves, people have suffered and still are as a result of their conduct.”
Key worker Debbie Jones-Kelly, who worked through the pandemic said this approach does not meet the individual needs of all the surgery’s users. The frontline worker, who had the added responsibility of looking after her newborn baby, is frustrated that hairdressers and other businesses are open, yet “GPs are refusing to see patients”.
She said: “I understand everyone has their individual circumstances, but imagine your loved one is waiting to see a GP and can’t work technology involving video calls and is deteriorating away.”
She added: “So many patients need their GPs to open. Help the NHS and start taking some burden off the frontline.”
Other residents have raised concerns – Karen Craigens said: “It’s shocking there are so many people not seen – the end results are often a life limiting diagnosis. Doctors have no reason not to do face to face appointments now.”
Victoria Health Practice said: “We understand the last 12 months have been difficult for our patients and the practice is always happy to hear suggestions on what can be improved”. It added: “The practice continues to provide services throughout Covid-19. Like many other areas, services have been provided in different ways to ensure everyone’s safety.”