Patients who wait over a minute to call their doctor: Some people are even denied appointments because they have waited more than ten mins.

  • Survey included 60 randomly chosen urban and rural surgeries across England
  • It was found that almost one-fifth of all callers waited more than 15 minutes to be answered.
  • In England, the average wait time for callers was 8 minutes 36 seconds 

According to a snapshot survey done by the Daily Mail, patients who call their GP surgeries to make an appointment for a consultation can expect to wait up to one hour.

Some people have been cut off more than once after waiting more than ten minutes.

However, six out ten of the ten practices that were surveyed answered the questionnaire in five minutes or less. This is a stark example of the postcode lottery that patients face across the country.

Patients are finding it difficult to get a phone call to their surgery after the demand for appointments has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

When they do manage to get through, they will often be offered a telephone consultation rather than a facetoface appointment.

Colin Boughton-Smith (above) gave up on trying to see his GP after calling ‘at least 50 times’

Colin Boughton-Smith (above) gave up on trying to see his GP after calling ‘at least 50 times’

Last month, Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled a nine-point package to improve patient access following a Daily Mail campaign that sought to increase the number of GP appointments made in person.

It included a funding package to upgrade some surgeries’ antiquated telephone systems in a bid to cope with surging demand.

Last week, MPs held an open debate. They shared stories of people who had packed postbags and reported that they were ringing their GPs 150 or more times trying to get through.

I called at most 50 times before giving up. 

Colin Boughton-Smith gave up on trying to see his GP after calling ‘at least 50 times’.

After sustaining a back injury, the 72-year-old called Burnham Health Centre in Buckinghamshire July 1.

After 28 days of calling at 8am – and waiting at least 20 minutes without success – as well as trying to book via an app and visiting in person, he wasn’t able to get an appointment.

After emailing the practice manager, a doctor called him – but Mr Boughton-Smith missed it as he was in the toilet. He tried again a few days later, but received no reply.

Mr Boughton-Smith’s MP, Joy Morrissey, wrote to the local commissioning group.

It was amazing to discover that the reply claimed that the pensioner was a minor, and that his father would need a letter to allow him to see.

‘It was a complete fob off,’ Mr Boughton-Smith said. A surgery spokesman said it was ‘actively looking into’ updated phone systems.

The Daily Mail conducted a survey of 60 randomly selected urban and rural surgeries in England, and found that almost half of those who called left calls waiting for more than 15 minutes.

In England, the average wait time was 8 mins and 36 seconds. However, 19% of surgeries left callers waiting for over 15 minutes. 

The longest wait time at a Kent surgery was one hour and 19 minutes.

It took 45 minutes for me to get through to Newcastle upon Tyne’s medical centre, while it took me 39 minutes to get through at a Lancaster practice. 

A more positive note is that six out of ten practices were answered within five minutes or less.

All calls were made after 9am – after the rush of patients seeking urgent appointments – and before 3pm. 

Many practices broadcast recorded messages to patients queuing at the phone, encouraging them to hang-up and visit their website.

Campaigners claim that elderly and disabled patients are more likely than others to have difficulty accessing technology. 

James Sunderland (Conservative MP for Bracknell) described last week how one resident tried to get through 159 times after becoming concerned about a lump in her neck. Only to be offered a phone consultation.

Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton West said that the problem could increase the pressure on already overloaded hospitals.

‘Many people are now going to accident and emergency,’ he said. ‘The system is coming under significant and increasing pressure, which is piling up as we head into winter.’

Some have been cut off on more than one occasion after waiting for more than ten minutes

Some people have been cut off more than once after waiting more than ten minutes

MPs claimed that staff are being let down because of under-investment IT systems. 

This was also Dennis Reed, from the patient campaign group Silver Voices. 

He said: ‘Although there are some very good GP practices, a large number operate on a last century style of customer service with last century telephone systems.’ 

NHS England stated that it was supporting practices in moving to cloud-based telephone systems, which offer extra lines, automated queueing, and feedback on demand levels.

It was noted that more than 98% of surgeries allow patients online bookings.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed plans to improve surgeries’ phone systems but said it was essential for the Government to meet its manifesto pledge of an additional 6,000 GPs and 26,000 extra practice employees by 2024 so clinics can meet the escalating demand.