Sheffield patients 'giving up' on seeing GPs after being told they face a four-week wait

Patients in Sheffield said they'd been told to wait four weeks for a GP appointment.
Patients in Sheffield said they'd been told to wait four weeks for a GP appointment.
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Patients in Sheffield are facing up to a four-week wait to see their GP with one city MP claiming some people are giving up trying to book an appointment despite having early symptoms of life-threatening conditions.

Katie Gaston said she had written to Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield after being told she would have to wait four weeks for an appointment at White House Surgery, just off Prince of Wales Road.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.

She said the surgery was also due to bring in changes to the way appointments can be booked, which she claimed would make it 'even more difficult' to see a doctor.

Mr Blomfield said the case was one of a number he had received from constituents and added it was a 'reflections of eight years of under-funding the NHS'.

He said: "I regularly hear of people's difficulties in securing GP appointments and we know that leads to a pressure on accident and emergency services in hospitals.

"That's partly because people present at A&E with difficulties and partly because they have issues that could be dealt with by a GP become more acute and that's particularly an issue among older people."

The MP said he'd written to the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group about the issue and warned that some seriously ill patients were choosing not to bother seeking medical advice.

He added: "Clearly, four weeks is an unacceptable wait. There are, quite rightly, a number of public health initiatives which encourage people to go quickly to an NHS service with early symptoms of diseases, which could become a major problem because early diagnosis is critical but the problem is when you can't get in to see a GP.

"Sometimes people think 'I'll just not bother' and those symptoms can quickly become critical. There needs to be adequate resources and joined-up thinking.

"There have been a lot of campaigns for symptoms of serious conditions recently but people are hitting a brick wall when it comes to getting an appointment."

Mum-of-one Ms Gaston, 38, said it was 'really hard' to get an appointment at White House Surgery and feared changes to the booking system, due to be brought in next month, might make matters worse.

She said: "At the minute, you're able to go in from 8am to get a same day appointment but from September 1 you won't be able to go in until 8.30am, which is the same time the phone lines open and it will be just one person manning reception and the phones.

"It's really hard and I think it may down to the amount of new housing developments in the area. I've got a three-year-old son and you find yourselves having to take your child to the walk in centre, even though you know it's not the right place to be."

Responding to the claims that Ms Gaston had been told she faced a four-week wait for an appointment, Shameem Khan, practice manager at White House Surgery, said: "Recently, we’ve seen that a large number of our pre-booked appointments are being wasted due to patients failing to attend.

"To combat this, we’ve increased the number of ‘same day’ appointments and reduced the number of pre-booked appointments. It might seem that our practice is offering less pre-booked appointments, but the total number of appointments offered has not been affected by these changes. By doing this, we have noticed a dramatic improvement in our patients attending appointments, although we still had 278 missed appointments in July."

Nicki Doherty, director of delivery care out of hospital at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "We are working to support all GP practices in Sheffield to offer fair and equal access to appointments to all patients. Missed appointments and longer waiting times can be a problem for any GP practice – and we’re working together to improve these for patients."