EXASPERATED patients fear someone will end up dead before appointment-booking issues with IMH-managed surgeries finally get resolved.

Lisa Carswell from Moredon spent hours on the phone and in the waiting room of Moredon Medical Centre after receiving a letter saying she needed to see her GP to discuss blood test results but could not get seen.

She then signed in at reception when arriving for a different pre-booked appointment later that week to receive her next month of prescriptions, but was marked as ‘did not arrive’ and was unable to re-book. While waiting, she saw other exasperated patients fail to book vital appointments, with one walking out saying “Well, I guess I’ll just die then”.

Lisa said: “This awful situation cannot be allowed to continue. What will it take for it to be addressed? Does a patient have to die before anyone acts?

“The staff are under immense pressure because they receive constant complaints, but can’t do much to help. And frail patients who rely on phone lines to book appointments can’t get through.

“I called and redialled the centre from 8am to 2pm after getting the letter but the line was constantly engaged, so I visited the surgery to book in person but was told to ring tomorrow because there weren’t any appointments available. The receptionist eventually found an appointment at Taw Hill after two other surgeries were fully-booked.

“The biggest problem was the next appointment, where I was going to be weighed and that would determine my next month of medication, but I was marked as absent and the nurse was called to treat another patient.

“I waited for 40 minutes and nobody called me, the apologetic receptionist didn’t know why this had happened and said the surgery is a complete mess at the moment. She also said she normally worked in the hub and the situation was dire. They are at the end of their tether and there’s no management they can complain to.”

A Swindon CCG spokesman said:“While it is not appropriate to comment on cases relating to individual patients, we have discussed this incident with staff at Moredon directly and an investigation is now under way.

“The wellbeing of patients must always remain the CCG’s top priority and we will work closely with Moredon and other IMH practices – through planned quality visits and by providing extra clinical resource – to ensure that safety is maintained during this period of transition.

“Patients with concerns about the care or treatment being provided at their practice are encouraged to contact the patient advice and complaints team by calling 0300 200 8844 or emailing feedback.swindonccg@nhs.net.”

Integrated Medical Holdings has been hugely criticised for its management of five Swindon GP practices and will withdraw once a replacement is arranged.

Samantha Wathen from Keep Our NHS Public said: “The main solution is for this to go back in-house instead of being left in the hands of an inept private company which is playing Russian roulette with patients’ safety and staff wellbeing.

“This is a prime example of why we are against privatising the NHS, the admin situation has been atrocious, people are suffering and staff are bearing the brunt of the complaints.

“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the worst-case scenario of someone dying might happen because IMH is not doing its job properly.”

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said: “Rightly, it has been agreed that IMH will no longer operate at these five surgeries and I’m working very closely to support the CCG’s work to find alternative local and sustainable new management for them. I am greatly encouraged by how seriously and proactively the CCG is being as the much-needed improvements can’t come quickly enough.”

“I have shared every concern that was raised with me and that helped bring about the decision to change the management because patients’ welfare should always be the priority.”