Dozens of patients seen queuing ‘around the block’ for GP appointment

Labour has slammed the Government after dozens of people have been seen queuing “around the block” for a GP appointment.

Patient Anna-Maria Cahalane posted pictures on X of people queuing outside Hilly Fields Medical Centre in Brockley, south London as they tried to get an appointment.

She said that she decided to queue at the doors of the practice after a few days of being unable to get through on the phone.

But when she arrived at 7.45am on Wednesday morning there was already 25 people in the queue in front of her.

More joined as they waited for the practice to open.

“I’ve been trying for a few days now to get an appointment with the GP by phoning up 8am which is the usual process but I found I literally couldn’t get even get onto the phone queue because it was engaged tone all the time,” she told the PA news agency.

“Last time I needed to go to the practice I had a lot of trouble and I ended up having to go down in the morning and queue, so I thought ‘I’m going have to do that again’.

“I thought I’d get there extra early so I got there around 7.45, and as I was walking down towards the GP practice, I saw there was already a queue all along the pavement, which alarmed me.

“I counted there was about 25 people ahead of me. And I took the picture then because I just thought this is unbelievable. This is the worst I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it bad but never as bad this.”

Ms Cahalane, who runs a nature reserve and is a tutor for Send pupils, said she waited for one hour and 15 minutes in total and that people in the queue with her were “getting quite cross and a bit upset”.

The 50-year-old added: “It was just getting really quite stressful for people and then a lady, I think she must have been the manager, just shouted out ‘all emergency appointments are gone for today’, we hadn’t even got to the door.”

She said that people carried on queuing just to try and speak to someone but felt their privacy was breached when describing their issues to the receptionist in front of other people in the queue.

“I got to the receptionist and she said: ‘Sorry, no appointments. I’m sorry about the queue,’ and she said: ‘You’ll have to come back tomorrow’.”

“I said, ‘I can’t queue up like this again, there must be another option’.

“She suggested phoning and I told her it is always engaged. And she just said ‘I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do’.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “What a damning indictment on 14 years of Conservative Government, that patients are literally queueing around the block to see a GP.

“The Conservatives have cut 2,000 GPs since 2015, leaving millions unable to get an appointment at all. The longer the Conservatives are in office, the longer patients wait.

“Labour will fix the front door of the NHS with investment and reform. We will train thousands more GPs and cut the red tape that ties up their time, so patients can easily book appointments with their family doctor.”

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We don’t know the circumstances that led to this specific situation, and every practice will have its own way of taking bookings and managing demand, but patients should never have this much difficulty securing a GP appointment.

“GPs feel our patients’ frustrations when they struggle to access our care and services – ultimately this is the result of years of underfunding in general practice and poor NHS workforce planning.

“GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard and the comments made by some of the patients who were in the queue, that when they get to see a GP, they’re very pleased with the care they receive, echo the sentiments of patients found by national surveys.

“The average number of patients per fully qualified GP continues to rise and is now 2,298, meaning each GP is, on average, responsible for 158 more patients than they were five years ago.

“This isn’t sustainable – general practice is at breaking point, and it’s our patients bearing the brunt. We need significant investment and dramatic efforts to increase the GP workforce, especially retaining existing GPs in the workforce, or things will go from bad to worse.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has been been approached for comment.

The PA news agency was unable to reach Hilly Fields Medical Centre.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2024, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anna-Maria Cahalane / PA.