Patient shocked to wait at least six days for appointment

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A PATIENT at Banbridge Group Surgery has hit out after being told he could not get an appointment to see a doctor for six days.

The man said he was shocked at the length of the wait, adding that he was dissatisfied at being told he would have to ring each morning in the hope he could get a cancellation.

The 40-year-old Banbridge man called on Friday morning only to be told the earliest he could be seen would be six working days from then.

Speaking to the Leader he said, “I was shocked to be honest. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been asked to wait an entire week for an appointment.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable to have to wait that long. I wouldn’t have said Banbridge is that big a town that they would be inundated. I wasn’t asking to see a specific doctor, anyone who was free would have been fine.”

Having called the surgery again yesterday morning the man said he was told he would have to wait a further week.

“I’m no health expert but 10 days wait seems ridiculous,” he said. “How many people get the same response and while waiting for an appointment get seriously ill? Then possibly end up in casualty! Maybe better organisation at the front end of health care could put less strain on the emergency end?”

The man said the option to call back first thing each morning was not suitable for him as he works full-time and would have to orgnaise time off in advance.

“That doesn’t really work for me, as I’m sure it doesn’t really work for many other people. I think it wouldn’t be too much to ask to have the surgery open late night one evening to accommodate at least some of the full-time workers who might need an appointment - that might be the only time they can make it.”

At present the surgery is open between 8am and 5.30pm Monday-Wednesday and Friday with a 90-minute break for lunch. The surgery closes at midday on a Thursday with one doctor available for emergency consultations.

Practice Manager Nicola Cummings said she is confident the range of options they offer if an appointment is unavailable will cater for the needs of 99.9 per cent of patients.

“We’ve got what I consider to be great access to services here,” she said. “It is not unusual in most parts of the province to wait six days or more for an appointment and that is why there is a variety of options available for people.

“Patients are always told to ring for cancellations in the morning and there is also a facility to leave a message so the doctor can get back to you.”

Speaking to the Leader last year Ms Cummings revealed that more than 700 hours of clinical time are lost each year due to people not turning up for appointments, and she said this is part of the reason that there isn’t more time available for patients.

“We would of course have more appointments to offer if we didn’t have so many people not attending their appointments. But I would say we do not turn away anyone in need of an appointment - we work hard to cover all bases and provide alternative options for people until they can be seen at the surgery.”