IMH patients say they are still experiencing difficulties trying to book GP appointments.

One group of patients, many registered with Abbey Meads Medical Centre, said they had no confidence that the Manchester-based firm would meet a self-imposed ambition to get booking delays fixed by the end of March.

Dr Martyn Diaper, IMH chief executive, said recent improvements had resulted in a drastic fall in call waiting times. The longest wait on average per day was now 25 minutes. Swindon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees GP care, said the organisation was in close contact with IMH.

The firm has links with five GP practices in Swindon: Abbey Meads Medical Centre, Moredon Medical Centre, and Phoenix, Taw Hill and Phoenix surgeries.

Last autumn, IMH introduced a new method of booking appointments. A central hub at Moredon took over responsibility for handling requests for GP slots from surgery reception staff. IMH has admitted it underestimated demand, with patients complaining of lengthy waits.

Health bosses say the situation is improving as extra call centre staff are hired.But some patients have complained they are still face significant delays and difficulties getting appointments.


Blunsdon man James Hurley, 83, said it took him almost two hours to get an appointment when he called 10 days ago, concerned his blood pressure was rising dangerously. When he

He said: “This is going on and on. Justin Tomlinson, the CCG - I know it's in everyone's sights. But nothing's happening. It took me nearly two hours to get through to the relevant people."

Yesterday, when the Advertiser visited Mr Hurley in the retirement apartment block where he lives with wife Margaret, neighbours complained of similar difficulties since the new telephone system had been brought in.

Jenny Backshell, 80, said: “It’s frightening, the fact you can no longer get hold of the practice you’ve been with for years and years. You can’t contact them or get through on the telephone.”

People felt let down and that there had been no consultation about or trial of the new telephone system, she added.

Husband Joe, 84, asked: “If it’s all working now, why are we sitting round – good honest people – complaining about the issue? We’re suffering because we’re worried about it. We’re concerned not only for ourselves, but for other people who aren’t here.”

Margaret Hurley, warned: “I think at some stage there will be a fatality.”

Of nine people the Advertiser met at Priory Manor yesterday, all said they were still unhappy with the phone lines. None believed the problem would be fixed by the end of March, the six week deadline given by IMH’s Dr Diaper when he spoke to BBC Wiltshire in February.

However, they were quick to praise the service from surgery doctors and nurses. One woman, who was called by Dr Diaper after raising an issue with her husband’s medication, said she had been impressed by the chief.


Last night, Dr Diaper said IMH had recruited the equivalent of more than 100 hours of additional call handler time.

In a statement, the chief executive said: Dr Martyn Diaper, chief executive of IMH, said: “We are disappointed to hear that some patients are still experiencing long waiting times when contacting the hub. As per my comments on BBC Wiltshire a few weeks ago, we still believe that issues with call waiting times will be largely resolved by the end of March within the six week timeframe we referenced.

“I would like to add that we monitor and analyse our call data every day and by looking at our daily reporting, we have already made drastic improvements in call waiting time. The data shows that in the last 3 weeks, our longest wait per day on average, has been under 25 minutes. There has been a very small number of occasions where this has been higher due to either sickness or vacancies not yet being filled.

Read more: PHONE FIASCO: Your chance to tell IMH how you feel

“In the last three weeks we have only had one day where the longest wait was over 60 minutes and this was for only a handful of calls. We obviously realise that these call waiting times are not yet fully up to standard, but would hope that patients have noticed an improvement which has certainly been picked up when receiving patient feedback. We would also like to add that the average patient queue time has been under 10 minutes for all bar one day in the last three weeks, the average time is routinely under 5 minutes, particularly after 9:00am in the morning.

“To further improve the call waiting times, we have recruited over 100 hours of additional call handler time which should come into effect within the next few weeks and allow us to reach our target of resolving these issues by the end of March. Until then, we are using additional internal support to fill these vacancies, which is why we have seen an improvement recently.

“We would not like to comment on the specific example mentioned and will instead investigate this issue privately with the patient [Mr Hurley] involved, we would also encourage patients to get in touch to feedback on issues experienced so that we can investigate them individually as this incident is not consistent with our call data.

“We would also like to note that we are currently overhauling the appointment system to allow for a better availability of appointments and in particular, routine appointments, from the end of March. We would like to thank patients for their continued patience and feedback whilst we are resolving these issues.”

Swindon CCG responds

A spokesman for Swindon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We remain in close contact with IMH, as well as the five individual GP practices, and receive regular performance reports, which have recently shown an improvement in the time taken to answer calls.

“However, as a CCG, we continue to look for improvements that will be beneficial to both patients and staff."