THURROCK has the worst patient reviews in mid and south Essex and is facing one of the worst GP shortages, it has been revealed reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
Like all authorities, Thurrock is introducing an integrated healthcare service where patients are triaged to get the most appropriate care.
This may mean seeing a nurse, a pharmacist or if needed at GP but councillors at a Thurrock health and wellbeing board meeting on Thursday heard patients are waiting for hours to get through to surgeries by phone and are unhappy at having to give medical details to surgery receptionists.
Chairman, Shane Ralph, praised Thurrock’s “brilliant doctors” but he said: “On July 21 a patient survey showed that Thurrock had the lowest overall experience rating in mid and south Essex. That’s quite disappointing.
“I think as a local councillor the most complaints I get that they’re not answering the phones. Patients are walking in there with their phones still ringing because they’ve not been able to get access. They also get forwarded from one phone call to another and end up being told by a pharmacist that they are having some sort of treatment change when they’ve not spoken to a doctor. They get quite worried about that sort of thing.
“When is it going to change? When are we going to see that improvement?”
Speaking at the meeting, Mark Tebbs from Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “There is no magic bullet. There’s not a quick solution to the current situation our primary care and the NHS generally faces. The long term impact of covid, the operational delivery of the vaccination programme, the fact there are extensive waiting lists in secondary care means the burden on primary care is that much greater.
To provide covid safe services and provide more a mixed hybrid model means there is additional burden on telephone lines it’s more difficult to get through on the phone.“
Mr Tebbs added: “There is a national shortage of GPs but within Thurrock we have especially low levels of GPs per head of population. Our levels are lower than elsewhere. We have increased the number of front line clinicians and that’s been part of the work on the new models of care. That’s been a mixed skills workforce and I think that’s taking a bit if time to communicate with the public.”
Kim James, from Healthwatch Thurrock which ran a Facebook live session with a panel of GPs answering residents’ concerns, said: “There needs to be more communication. People don’t understand how this new system is working. There are many that believe the doctors are not even there, they’re at home working.
“They don’t understand the triage. They were very clear that they don’t want to talk to receptionists about their conditions or issues. They don’t think that’s right so there was a lot of explanation about how that’s triaged and who needs to be seen first.”